Feel the Bern: Part 2: Economic Freedom & Rights

Economic Freedom & Rights

econfreedomThe core of the first video in the interview between rapper Killer Mike and Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is Bernie Sanders’ discourse on freedom and rights. He equates the freedom of speech with a hypothetical right to healthcare, food,[1] shelter,[1] and education. In the form of a rhetorical question, he posits that one is not truly free if one lacks these things. He terms these services and goods as “economic rights” and claims that as the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, America can and should do a far better job of providing these rights. Also included in these rights are employment, a “decent wage” (by which he means a wage that allows you to “make it”). Essentially, he desires to guarantee a minimal standard of living for every American.

Freedom

One of the roots of Sanders’ disconnect from reality is his concept of freedom. True freedom is defined by the Wise and Benevolent Disseminator of All Knowledge as this:

the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

While this definition does not quite explicitly capture the distinction, the phrase “without hindrance or restraint” begins to shed light on the difference between true freedom (the right to be free from interference) from Sanders’ pie-in-the-sky freedom (the right to be free of want).

lemonade_girlsThe problem with sanfreedom[2] brings us back to the question of reality. True freedom can easily exist in reality. Say you drop a man on the surface of the moon. Harsh mistress though she is, the man has by default true freedom. No one will interfere with his plans to sell lemonade, to hunt moon fairies, or to vainly suck in nothingness as he inevitably surrenders to the chilling fatal embrace of the endless void.

He does not, however, possess sanfreedom. He has neither food nor healthcare; neither shelter nor additional education. Because Wal-Mart has not as of this writing claimed Luna for all of Buffetdom, there is no one there yet to provide these things. Therein lies the crucial distinction between true freedom and sanfreedom. True freedom is negative – it requires nothing to be done or created. Sanfreedom is positive – it requires things to be produced and performed. Therefore, since these goods and services must be provided, sanfreedom is entirely dependent upon their availability and – crucially – cannot be guaranteed regardless of political rhetoric or legislation. Just as vacuous pop stars come and go with the tide of fandom, so will “economic rights” come and go with the rise and fall of the economic supply-demand equilibrium (read: price).

Furthermore, a right that infringes upon someone else’s right is irrational. A right, by nature, must apply equally to all, otherwise it is a privilege. Since sanfreedoms depend on goods and services which must be produced, any would-be guarantor of sanfreedoms (such as Sanders) must have a mechanism by which to extract these goods and services from the producers. Since the guarantor does not have infinite resources, he, she, or the Brain may be forced to exchange fewer resources than the provider is willing to accept or be forced to exchange under circumstances which the provider is unwilling to accept.

Since the provider may be unwilling and the guarantor must take the provisions regardless, it follows that the guarantor will violate the producer’s true freedom (that is, his right to be free of interference). This is true even if the guarantor is entirely virtuous at heart. Since supply is finite and subject to fluctuations, the guarantor will at some point reach a crossroads where they must either fail in their guarantees of sanfreedoms or violate true freedoms. This is evidenced in the low wages of public educators and the laggardly pace at which government documents are obtained. (Which is not to say that low wages are a foregone conclusion for public educators – trade-offs do exist.)

Therefore, since sanfreedoms require the violation of rights, they cannot logically be considered true freedom.

The Logic Train Breaks Down

train_wreckIt is simple, trivial, and obvious to determine that the invalidity of sanfreedoms invalidates the basis upon which Sanders has built all the ideology he espouses in this video. And, therefore, the justification for his socialist policies of government guarantees must be discarded by any rational observer. This does not automatically prove his policies immoral or illegal, but it does leave them wanting for justification.

Philosophy

This is all not to say that Bernie Sanders’ statements are entirely with out merit. A critical statement of his follows:

bernie_sanders_twitter_profile.jpgYou don’t have food in your stomach. You don’t have a house, roof over your head. If you don’t have any education are you really free?

This is an interesting philosophical statement worthy of some consideration. It is true that the realities of human existence create constraints on our freedom to do as we will. The very nature of things requires us to perform some action (typically work) to produce or procure food, shelter, and all the rest. Therefore, we are not truly free to do as we will. However, since these constraints are imposed by the nature of a finite reality – which trends towards maximum entropy –  they cannot be removed by human policy or ideology.

Therefore, Bernie’s rhetorical question, while relevant, is a non sequitur in the context of supporting government-guaranteed services.

Wealth

I wish to take a quick moment to note that Bernie’s emphasis on America’s wealth has no bearing on my preceding arguments. Wealth is a factor, of course. Wealthy America might take longer to reach the guarantee-or-bust crossroads than, say, the Central African Republic. But reach it it would, and our wealth would only make the crisis all the more dramatic, just as our depressions and booms are more far-reaching in their effects than those of much smaller economies.

Conclusion

While Bernie Sanders and Killer Mike both seem completely earnest and desirous of helping others in need, the ideals and policies put forth in this video are self-contradictory and defy physical reality. Unless I am very much mistaken, rational people of principle and logic must therefore discard their arguments and seek policies, ideals, or at the least arguments more consistent with physics, scarcity, and internal consistency.

Engagement

As always, I welcome any criticisms or disagreements in the form of comments, messages, emails, or smoke signals. But be advised that (a) I may ignore or remove profanity or ad hominem attacks, (b) the First Amendment does not prevent me from doing this, and (c) if you inform me via smoke signal that you are a socialist, I may wonder what a socialite is doing on a political blog.

Notes

  1. implied; not explicit
  2. sanfreedom – An ancient term I just made up, meaning “freedom from want.” It works equally well as a reference to Bernie Sanders or San Francisco.