Learn Liberty

Category Archive: Philosophy

  1. Can Conscious Capitalism Save Communities? | Off the Clock Economist Explores

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    Professor Daniel D’Amico interviews a New Orleans business owner about crime in the city after Hurricane Katrina. They observe that local businesses can play an important role in reducing crime and increasing the safety of communities. Entrepreneurs and businesses create more connections between people, offer support and economic opportunities, and provide what urbanist Jane Jacobs called “eyes on the street.”

  2. V for Venezuela

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    Tired of the corruption, high crime, and poor state of the economy in Venezuela, students and other citizens are taking to the streets to protest. What kind of ideas inspire regular citizens to risk so much in the face of a tyrannical government?

    Source footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFS6cP9auDc

    Disclaimer: Learn Liberty is an educational project and does not endorse any policy, politician, or political party. Learn Liberty does not endorse violence of any kind.

    “The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.” ― James Madison

  3. We Are All Ukrainians

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    The anti-government protests and demonstrations in Ukraine have been flooding the news lately. But what is it all about? What ideas inspire these people to stand tall against their oppressive government?

    Disclaimer: Learn Liberty is an educational project and does not endorse any policy, politician, or political party. Learn Liberty does not endorse violence of any kind.

    “I mean let anyone do anything he pleases that’s peaceful or creative; let there be no organized restraint against anything but fraud, violence, misrepresentation, predation; let anyone deliver mail or educate or preach his religion or whatever, so long as it’s peaceful.” – Leonard Read

    SOURCE: http://youtu.be/Hvds2AIiWLA

  4. Debate – What Would Happen if America Opened its Borders?

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    The United States has laws in place to limit the number of immigrants granted entry. How many immigrants should be allowed to call America home? Bryan Caplan, professor of economics at George Mason University, argues that the United States should have open borders. Jan Ting, professor of law at Temple University, argues that there need to be limits on the number of immigrants.

    In this clip, Prof. Ting argues that open borders would result in an enormous increase in the number of immigrants to the United States. He points out that there are so many opportunities here that people would come in huge numbers from less developed countries. The strain on the United States infrastructure and environment could be enormous.

    In his response, Prof. Caplan argues that the fact people would want to come in such great numbers is, in his mind, an argument favoring open borders. People should be living in places where they can achieve their potential. For many people around the world, this means they need to move. Would this have effects on the U.S. economy? Absolutely. Prof. Caplan argues that in the short run, housing prices would probably increase, for example. In addition, we may see a move to having personal servants, as many of the low-skilled workers in the world have skill sets that fall below the lowest-skilled workers in the United States. To offset pressures on the environment, Prof. Caplan recommends increasing costs for pollution and other environmental hazards.
    What do you think? Do you think the fact that many people would want to immigrate to the United States is an argument in favor or against opening the borders?

  5. Frank Underwood’s Top 3 Lessons for the Voting Public | House of Cards Review

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    Netflix recently debuted season two of its original series House of Cards. Some have suggested the show reflects a deeply cynical view of politics, but Prof. Steve Horwitz argues that it is an unromantic and realistic portrayal of how the incentives politicians have in the United States can give rise to the same kind of behaviors Congressman Frank Underwood exemplifies. Prof. Horwitz also describes three lessons viewers of House of Cards can gain from the show.

    1. As a general principle, we should be very skeptical of politicians.
    2. House of Cards shows the constant backroom trading of favors among politicians, their staffers, special interests, and the occasional member of the public.
    3. Politics attracts those who are especially skilled at public relations, favor trading, and power plays, not necessarily those who best serve the public interest.

    It is important to remember that politicians are just normal people seeking their own personal self-interest over anything else. If we do not have a limited government designed to keep selfish motives in check, Frank Underwood–style politics will rule the day. If we want to keep ruthless and power-hungry people from ruling our country, we need to change the incentives politicians have and reduce their power. Prof. Horwitz says, “We need a more limited government without the possibility of dealing with these kinds of special favors.” How realistic do you think the political portrait in House of Cards is? What, if anything, do you think should be done to change the political system in the United States today?

  6. Is Fixing Inequality A Matter of Justice?

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    The question of how to address poverty in the United States is complicated. Steven Horwitz, chair of the department of economics at St. Lawrence University, and Jeffrey Reiman, professor of philosophy and religion at American University, debate the level of government assistance that should be given to help the poor.

    In this clip, Prof. Horwitz suggest that the least amount of government necessary should be involved in alleviating U.S. inequality. He discusses the use, for example, of charitable donations from private entities as a way to help the poor without government involvement.

    Prof. Reiman, in contrast, suggests that poverty and inequality is a matter of justice. That is, everyone is entitled to a certain standard of living, a certain level of equality in outcome. He argues that charity hurts the dignity of the recipient. When it is a gift, the recipient is made to feel that he does not deserve the charity, that he is made lower than the giver. Instead, he argues, assistance given to the poor should be something they receive because they have a right to it. They should not have to feel that it is undeserved. This is an interesting philosophical question tucked inside a larger debate about the role of government in helping the poor. What do you think?

  7. A Marxian Case for Capitalism

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    The question of how to address poverty in the United States is complicated. Steven Horwitz, chair of the department of economics at St. Lawrence University, and Jeffrey Reiman, professor of philosophy and religion at American University, debate the level of government assistance that should be given to help the poor.

    In this clip from the full debate, Prof. Reiman answers Prof. Horwitz’s question about the role he sees for markets in addressing the poor. Prof. Reiman says he is a believer in capitalism and a believer in free markets. He finds that capitalism has worked well to raise the general standard of living for the poor in the United States and elsewhere in the world. He has even written a book titled, A Marxian Case for Capitalism. But he suggests that these gains are general and that more should be done for the individuals who are struggling in our country. Prof. Reiman also argues that the current system has degraded the dignity of many of the poor and that there are many problems that stem from bad government programs. But, he says, he does not favor abolishing the role of government dogmatically.

    Prof. Horwitz responds that the question of reducing government is not so much a dogmatic question as it is an empirical one. Has government worked at these things? Can it solve these problems? Prof. Reiman argues that perhaps the results are mixed. What do you think? Watch the full debate for more.

  8. The most dangerous monopoly: When caution kills

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    Everyone wants the items they buy to be safe to use or consume. When products undergo third-party certification processes to determine their safety, market forces are able to optimize the amount of testing conducted and consumers can use the information provided by certification firms to make their own decisions. It is difficult to say how much testing is enough: another test can always be run on a product, but at some point the benefit of the extra testing outweighs the costs. In a free-market system, competition among certification firms allows the market to work as it should and prevents both under- and over-testing of products. Conversely, when the government holds the monopoly on safety standards, products are likely to be over-tested, delaying their entry into the market and making them more expensive. Sometimes the costs of such delays cannot be quantified; lives can be lost while life-saving medicines are held up in safety-testing processes.

  9. Debate: What To Do About Poverty

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    This LearnLiberty debate presents arguments for and against more government assistance to help the poor in the United States. Prof. Steven Horwitz argues that the government has created too many problems and that lifting government-imposed barriers to the poor will go a long way toward solving the problems of inequality in the United States. Prof. Jeffrey Reiman takes the view that government, while not perfect, will have a key role to play in creating better programs to help the poor. What do you think?

     

  10. Stealing from the Poor to Give to the Rich: An Anti-Robin Hood Story

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    Have you ever thought much about property rights? Many believe ownership protections primarily favor the wealthy, but it turns out that the wealthy and politically connected actually benefit more when ownership is vulnerable. Without strong property rights, those with the power are able to take property from those who lack such political connections. In places like Zimbabwe—where the government is able to confiscate profits, merchandise, and even businesses with ease—the lack of property protections has been one cause of the country’s decline. Today, Zimbabwe is the poorest country in the world, and eroded property rights are at least partially to blame. Prof. Dan Russell argues that “doing less to protect ownership turns out to be a really effective way to create poverty.” Perhaps property rights deserve protecting. Except, maybe, among Finnish race car drivers.

  11. Free Will and Human Dignity: A Love Story

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    What is the value of free will and the ability to make your own choices? Prof. James Otteson recalls a parable his teacher taught him in high school. If you had the ability to make a woman fall in love with you, would you like it? Would you prefer to force someone to love you or to have someone offer to give their love to you freely? Love freely given is so much more valuable. This story illustrates an important moral insight: Respecting people means allowing them to make their own choices, even if you believe the choices they will make are poor. Without the ability to choose for ourselves, we lose a bit of what makes us human. Do you find it frustrating when you are not allowed to make your own decisions? What would you do differently if people or government were not preventing your actions? Do you think you’re better or worse when your choices are limited or taken from you?

     

  12. Is Katniss a Modern-Day Spartacus?

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    Literature and legend often reflect their culture. Some themes, like that of rulers imposing coercive power, or of individuals rising up against tyrants, are as relevant today as they were in antiquity. Suzanne Collins drew on Greek mythology’s story of the Minotaur and on the legend of Spartacus in ancient Rome as she created the Hunger Games series. Her hero, like the heroes in these stories, does not seek her own power or profit but is standing up against a violent and tyrannical government. “People everywhere yearn for the freedom to pursue their own goals and dreams,” says Prof. Amy Sturgis. Even though the themes are ancient, stories like the Hunger Games resonate with readers because the anxieties and fears they portray are real and relevant. “These stories aren’t just entertainment,” Sturgis says. “They are reflections of who and what we are.” Do the themes in these stories resonate with you? Why?