Anarcho-capitalism is a political ideology that falls under the category of libertarianism. I'll state now that I'm against this idea and I want to do my best to not build a straw man. I want to accurately describe the ideology, which I'm going to do now.

A libertarian society is one with a government that is in charge of protecting rights and that's the only role. The government does this is through a legislative branch, an executive branch, and judicial branch. This means laws that are designed to protect individual rights, police and military to protect these rights from violators, and a courts to prosecute those that violate rights. This society has retaliatory force (ie: the force used to protect rights) held in a monopoly by the government (aside from immediate self defense).

The anarcho-capitalist society is the same as the libertarian society, but the big difference is that the operations of government (police, courts, laws) become market players. Putting it simply, the monopoly on government is broken and consumers in society can choose these services from private businesses described as 'private defense forces', use arbitration in private courts and pay in (or participate) in some sort of larger threat (like war).

This form of 'anarchism' varies from the communist version of the same concept because this ideology is focused on property rights - something which doesn't exist in the communist version.

What separates a standard libertarian that believes in government and an anarcho-capitalist is the non-aggression principle (NAP) (also known as zero-aggression principle). The view is that an individual being denied the ability to fund their own government/police/etc is a violation of NAP. Simply put; a government monopoly is a violation of rights.

The Case Against

I'm going to argue from the perspective of rights. Since the anarcho-capitalist justifies their ideology on using rights and defending their use - I will argue from that perspective.

My case; anarcho-capitalism doesn't protect rights by design and therefore should be rejected by its followers.

This whole situation boils down to three things; rights, force and epistemic application of the two former.

Rights

Rights are actions that an individual can make unimpeded by other individuals, up to the point where it violates the rights of others [See further reading at the bottom for more detail]. The one thing to take away is that rights are not subjective. They're not vague. They're well defined. Yet, in a market place rights are not necessarily interpreted the same way. Do animals have rights equal to that of humans? Well, if you're willing to pay - yes. Is it a capital offense to draw a picture of the prophet Muhammad? Well, if you're willing to pay - yes.

We're left in a position of where do rights come from. Do rights come before the concept of politics? Obviously rights do, since rights were used to describe and build this anarcho-capitalist ideology, yet this ideal society leaves rights as subjective constructs to be purchased on whim from businesses offering services for a profit.

I'm left thinking, does one have the right to choose their rights or does one have the right to choose rights?

Force

There is more to this discussion. Rights are the actions individuals can make, but there is also the framework for dealing with violators and ensuring justice is properly applied. When learning about anarcho-capitalism you'll hear the term 'private defense agency' or something along these lines. I find this word quite heavily marketed and used strategically. What we're talking about is agents of force. They can be massive businesses with thousands of employees or it could be a simple one man operation.

Consumers are paying for this force, but they're not paying for the force to be used on themselves. They're paying for force to be used on other people. They're going to use it on people they deem to be immoral or rights violators. A simple example of this is a dynamic between a PETA member and a farmer. A PETA member is going to purchase force from an agent that believes animals and humans have equal rights. And a farmer is going to purchase force from an agent that views animals as property. How does a dynamic like this work? Does the PETA agent kidnap arrest the farmer and lock him up? Can the PETA member just save themselves money and kidnap arrest the farmer?

Private arbitration may be brought up at this point, but it's not really an applicable application - as both sides view of rights are going to violated. And there is a laundry list of other issues that this may apply. Just think abortion.

Since people are purchasing their own subjective rights, we have force used in subjective ways. How this is a defense of rights is beyond me.

It's also worth mentioning where does the right to choose force come from? Does one have the right to choose rights violating force?

Due Process (Epistemic)

Lastly, the process of dealing with issues, wronged parties, crime and investigation require due process for rights to be protected. If someone steals my property (let's say a pig from my farm), I lose. My agency can kidnap arrest the PETA member that stole it, but their agent of force views animals as not property. So what happens? No answer.

Private arbitration requires parties to have a contract or understanding of terms. There are no terms between the two. We're left with no answer.

The market will figure it out is not an answer - it's too important for rights.

Crimes happen all the time, so what happens there? Someone is murdered on your lawn. It's your property and if you want to suspend people from coming on your property - you can. Does the property owners agent of force investigate? Or the victim's agent of force? Or the murderer's agent of force? No answer. 

How is a case built? How is evidence seized? Who issues a warrant? What's the standard for a warrant? Who does the autopsy? Who owns the dead body? No answer.

The market will figure it out is not an answer - it's too important when we talk of rights. 

Warrants are a real thing in a free society and how/when and to what standard is important. It grants the force and authority to enter someone's private property and seize assets. Crime scenes require property owners to temporarily lose their property rights over the scene while investigators work. Subpoenas require people to testify against their will.

Conclusion

Anarcho-capitalism is founded on the premise that choice in the marketplace for force is a right, like all others rights. My argument centered on this act of choosing force destroys all rights. The proper description for what is accomplished is nihilism. Rights become a meaningless concept of mere whim in the market place. Ethical force becomes another meaningless concept because all it turns into is what someone is willing to pay for - and really they don't have to pay - they can be an agent of force themselves.

The total lack of answers of how rights are protected is troubling, other than pay for a lot of fire power, which results in non-definitions, non-understanding and non-objective laws as the intended consequences. "The market will figure it out" is the end result to sum up the simple nihilism.

I'd also like to add for those anarcho-capitalists thinking; 'well all your objections happen in government right now, so what's the difference?" Exactly, what's the difference? Anarcho-capitalism, by design, doesn't fix the vary problems it's proponents complain about and only results in the choice of force on other people. For me, it's in no way a step up and results in far less rights for everyone.

Further Reading

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Posted by Christopher | 10:58 AM | , | 0 comments »


There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding the expansion of the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), so I felt this was an appropriate discussion. CPP is a program for people living outside of Quebec aged 18 to 70. Anyone earning work income have to pay into the CPP program.

Currently, as an employee, you'll pay 4.95% of your pre-tax income to CPP with a basic exemption on the first $3500 up to a total income of $54,900 (as of 2016 - this is an indexed to inflation number). This equates to a maximum of $2544.30 for 2016 as an employee. An employer also has to pay into the CPP program, for the employee, the same amount. This amounts to a max of $5088.60 for 2016.

The push for exanding CPP has been mainly been from large unions; such as CUPE and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). The desired CPP expansion from the CLC is to double contributions. They also wish to increase CPP replacement rate (essentially pay out) to grow from 25% to 50% (also doubling). The argument for this expansion is that some studies show that Canadians won't be able to save enough for retirement.

The Case Against

When it comes to the actual argument for the expansion of CPP, I wouldn't deny that some don't save enough for retirement. From my own personal experience people seem to put a lot more value into a hard asset like a house, rather than actual retirement savings (more liquid investment vehicles). With that said, The School of Public Policy, at the University of Calgary published a study titled "Expanding Canada Pension Plan Retirement Benefits: Assessing Big CPP Proposals" by Jonathan Kesselman. It stated the following when analyzing the studies addressed in the main argument:
Several studies have examined how well the Canadian retirement income system has been fulfilling the income replacement goal, and how well it is likely to perform in future years. The studies reach varying conclusions on the adequacy and/or deficiencies of the current system. However, they agree that the system performs adequately for the lowest earners (mainly through the OAS/GIS and with some CPP benefits) in maintaining pre-retirement living standards. While most studies find adequate income replacement for most middle-income earners on average, they also find that a significant proportion of middle- and upper-middle-income earners face deficiencies in sustaining pre-retirement living standards.
Summing it up, lower income individuals (often the poster child of retirement poverty) are the ones that do fine with their retirement. They receive pre-retirement living standards. For those in the middle class and upper middle class tend to have a harder time maintaining their pre-retirement standard of living.

CUPE uses the phrase "can't afford" and afford is based on the standard of living a retiree chooses to have. A low income person isn't going to experience any sort of strain unless they adopt a more expensive retirement. The 'deficiencies' between pre and post living standards for middle and upper-middle class is the progression of their career salary. For example, an engineers last 10 years of working should be their highest paid years. This peak in salary is not exactly a standard for retirement income requirements.

My first point regarding people not being able to afford retirement is that it really isn't true. Lower income individuals will experience similar outcomes. Middle class and above individuals will experience a decline in living standards only because we are measuring pre-retirement income - which should be at a peak.

Choice

I think microeconomics plays a big part of this and it's the concept of choice. People trade finite items for other finite items. We trade our time, money, experiences - everything because we can't do everything and have everything. Saving more for retirement, through the government, is forced. The concept of choice is taken away from the individual. That individual is impeded in making the important choices in their life.

Saving more for retirement might be good for some people, but not all. We all work hard today for our income, but what is the appropriate amount to trade today for tomorrow? Or better put, how much do I live today versus how much I prepare for tomorrow? There's no universal answer to this question. Each individual has to make this choice based on their values. Some may want a modest retirement, while others want to travel the world. Others may die before they ever receive it.

When looking at doubling CPP we're looking at nearly 10% of salary deduction and another 10% from an employer - we're looking at massive chunk of cash. If we ignore the employers cut and the implication of costs (lost salary of employees - as CPP matching is a cost), we're talking about 10% of an individuals income, along with regular income taxes, EI deductions, and other benefit deductions

Expanding CPP makes individuals more dependent on government to take care of them in retirement because they have even less after tax income to allocate as they see fit.

Another side of this choice permise is that an individual should be able to use their own judgment on what they do with their money and live with results of such a choice. CPP forces an individual into the government program. This program may have changing standards in the future (such as an increased benefit age), which lowers your overall return. An individual may not receive back a decent return because the program does have aspects of wealth redistribution.

An individual should be able to use the money that goes into an expanded CPP to spend on the here and now, or invest it for the future how they see fit. This could mean risky stock market investments, safe bonds, in their own businesses, or into their house - which they may sell in the future to fund their retirement.

Conclusion

An expansion of CPP is something that reduces an individual's choices in life. They are forced to buy into a government program that may not provide the necessary flexibility or return that their own personal choices may desire. This lack of choice is fundamentally taking away from an individual to live on their own judgment. The proponents of expanding CPP argue that many Canadians won't be able to afford retirement, which isn't what the studies actually show. Many Canadians may have trouble maintaining the standards of living of their peak income years, but the case hasn't been made whether this is a problem or that it needs to be fixed.

Summing it up simply, the best person to determine the course of an individual's retirement is the vary person that is going to live it.

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Posted by Christopher | 10:53 AM | , | 0 comments »


Taxes are something we all live with and pay. This includes young earners and the biggest businesses in the country. I hear politicians say that we need to cut taxes, others say we need to tax some demographic and others want to give tax credits to incentivize certain activities. One thing that is rarely discussed is the overall complexity of the current tax code and how complex should it be.

The only time I heard of someone really talking about reducing the complexity of the tax code happened in the States by Rudy Giuliani in his 2008 Republican primary run. A lot of it reduced taxes, but the main premise behind it is that a person could do their taxes on a single page of paper. Other than Rudy, I haven't seem someone advocate for that reduced complexity. *That's not to say someone else's plan wouldn't reduce complexity - I'm emphasizing the advocation of such an idea.

The Case

Taxes are not an automatic process. You may have taxes automatically taken off your paycheck, but that doesn't mean a business didn't provide labour for this. You may use tax software to handle your taxes, but that doesn't mean labour wasn't used.

Beneficial labour is the labour that is used to create something that doesn't exist (wealth). Every job from an engineer (designing something that doesn't exist) to a janitor (making a place clean) is creating something that doesn't exist. Labour dedicated to tax is wasted labour. It doesn't benefit your standard of living. It doesn't make us richer. Imagine going to the grocery story, but nothing had prices. In fact, your cost is based on very complex rules and you have to pay someone to figure out your exact amount. Crazy right, but that's sort of what taxes are like. We also have to consider the lost labour on the government's side to figure out whether people are doing their taxes correctly.
Spending time/money to figure out the cost of taxes is a loss to you and everyone else. Therefore it should be desired to reduce the amount of man hours spent on taxes - since this labour could be used for more important wealth building tasks.

According to the Fraser Institute, the size (text area) of the Income Tax Act and associated regulations grew 62% from 1990 to 2014 [2]. It is estimated that the average person invests roughly 8 hours to their taxes. And this doesn't include the man hours that businesses and the CRA put into the tax process either. It has been estimated that the economy lost between $5.84 billion and $6.96 billion in 2012 [3].

Tax Revenue is independent of simplicity

This particular case isn't trying to make the case for lowering taxes and shrinking the size of government. That's a different discussion. Simple taxes can be used to raise revenue much more efficiently. If you think about roughly ~$6 billion in untaxed "expenses" currently, being used in taxable wealth creation, we should see a net gain to the society with the exact same revenue.

It makes sense for both big government liberals and small government conservatives to support a simple tax code.

What would be a simple tax code?

The idea to simplify taxes is to make it more equal. We have a ton of tax credits for everything from putting your kids into sports (currently removed by 2016 budget), to adopting a child. The idea is to get rid of all, or at least most of these little tax credits being offered. Most of these little tax credits are not even understood by the average tax payer and require the paid expertise to guarantee they get it.

Business expenses are a type of deduction from their taxes. No a business shouldn't have to pay for expenses, as it is a cost of doing business, but there are complexities within what is an expense and what is capital. Eliminating the concept of a capital cost depreciation would save a lot of headache. For those unfamiliar, if you bought a computer for $1000 as a business, you can only write off a depreciated amount of expense per year. Now multiply that for chairs, tables, monitors, printers, and other types of capital. There are easier ways to deal with such items.

Lastly, a simplification of the tax code. Flat taxes are very easy to administer and understand. It's something that the Alberta government has had since the Klein era (though made progressive by the NDP government). It's a simple tax for deductions on paychecks. That's not to say that a simple tax code couldn't be somewhat progressive, but typically the less brackets - the better.

The best part of simplifying the tax code is that we (all of us) can save taxes. Since there are less wasted man hours on the labour of taxes, there is less need to tax quite as much to get the same amount of tax revenue.
Additional Reading & Sources
  1. Image from the Fraser Institute at Measuring Tax Complexity in Canada
  2. Rudy Giuliani on Tax Reform
  3. Cost to Canadians to Comply with Personal Income Taxes

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Posted by Christopher | 10:50 AM | , , | 0 comments »


Small government is a term that I see used far too often. When a question of government comes up, smaller is the answer and I find that this is advocation of nothing good. Do I want a small government? Yes, but it's not a position to advocate. This will be a relatively short topic as this is a pet peeve for me.

My big issue is that small government isn't really a position, other than smaller. When people use this term they don't literally mean smaller government. Today, the size of government is relatively large, so of course smaller is the goal. But this doesn't answer how small the government should be. Where is the limit? What should a small government be doing? These positions, the more important positions, are left undefined. I've personally seen people advocating very stupid positions because smaller is better.

Limited Government

Here's the big difference; advocating for something rather than some abstract view like smaller government creates understanding. When one talks of limited government they aren't advocating smaller government; they're advocating the specific role and boundaries of government.

These roles/boundaries will most likely result in a smaller government, but the goal isn't to make government small. When the question of how big should the government be? Well, the answer is simply, as big as it needs to be to do it's job.

In conclusion, advocate the role and boundaries of government, rather than some abstract idea of always being smaller. Smaller isn't a meaningful position - but a well defined government is something meaningful, understood and more worthy of winning over people in discussions.

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Posted by Christopher | 10:46 AM | , | 0 comments »


The act of turning people onto philosophy is one that is unrewarding. It's even harder with people that think they have it all figured out - especially those with interests in politics, you'll be greatly rewarded for taking on the task. I'm by no means an expert on philosophy, but I'm always learning - learning about myself.
Philosophy has taught me to:
  • Develop my ideas and views to well-reasoned positions.
  • Since my positions are better, I can argue them better.
  • And since my positions are better, I can defend them better.
When someone new encounters philosophy that most likely end up overwhelmed. Tough questions, different responses and many feel that it's all a matter of opinion. "Do you exist or are you in the matrix? How do you know?" "Is murder morally wrong? Why? How do you know?" It's not an easy field to learn.

There was a great comment on reddit that I had to save because this was the question brought up, "isn't it all a matter of opinion?" and I thought the reply was worth wild.
I think a lot of people, when they first encounter philosophy, aren't really sure what to make of it. For most of their education, and life generally, they are used to taking claims mainly based on authority. So, the textbook says something, or the teacher says something, or your parents say something, or your priest says something, and that's that. You might ask some internal questions about what they say, but rarely are you going to raise your hand in a physics class and ask "but, really, what is 'knowledge'?"

So, people come in to philosophy, and they are thrown. It's one of the first time people are being asked to think for themselves and really inquire about the foundations of thought. You are being asked to evaluate an argument, defend claims, make cogent objections, and articulate reasonable positions. And without being able to rely on authority, a lot of people get lost and confused. Not seeing a clear answer, they then say, "well, I guess it's just all opinion." And this is, in some sense, an intellectually cowardly answer. It's often a sort of thought that goes "well, if there is no one to tell me what the answer is, then there must not be an answer."
What is gained in philosophical study is your thought process working in a much more reasonable manner. Inevitably you'll learn that all views and positions are reflected in the way one thinks; from their religious views to politics. The real value to those interested in politics is better understanding the fundamentals. Political positions are a meaningless point to start with people - even though that seems to be where everyone starts. Political positions are the result of hierarchically more important views and positions - something many people don't understand.

There's a foundation of metaphysics (reality, the universe), epistemology (what is knowledge, how do you know what you know), and ethics/morals (the good and bad behaviors). Politics is merely another piece on top of these concepts, in particular the ethics/morals.

Making Arguments and Critiquing Arguments

My understanding of arguments has grown so much that it is the most valuable skill I've attained from philosophical study that I can apply to my interests in politics. When it comes to exchanging ideas and winning people to better ideas, arguments need to be presented.

The most alarming thing to take away is how your arguments lack any sort of credibility as an argument. Just poor assumptions and weak premises - no wonder I wasn't able to convince anyone of any ideas. Why does this happen? It happens because you challenge your own ideas and the reasons that lead you to believe it. It's not about your partisan politics, it's about the best idea. You challenge yourself because you want to know. When you're ideas are backed up with sound reasoning, you then form proper premises and harder to dismiss arguments.

The counter is true of your opponents. You start to see the fractures in people's arguments they give to you. The amount of times that I would end up in endless conversations about topics where someone had premises that didn't even lead to the conclusion. An example of this would be the is-ought problem, also know as the naturalistic fallacy. This is where someone takes a fact of reality (the is) and turns that fact into some sort of ethical action/behavior/policy (the ought), even though is doesn't get you to ought without some sort of ethical view to qualify what to do with the is.

Conclusion

Philosophy is the study of the more fundamental questions of existence, knowledge, values, ethics, etc. Most people never put more than a momentary thought in these questions. A person that challenges these ideas, understands them and hears a new perspective is going to be able to solidify their views and positions.

The value is the ideas and views you hold become much more stronger. Since they're stronger and better understood, you're better at arguing them and dealing with counter arguments.

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Posted by Christopher | 10:43 AM | | 0 comments »