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The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income |

 Basic Income Guarantee  Comments Off on The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income |
Jun 192016

Dec 5, 2013

Guaranteeing a minimum income to the poor is better than our current system of welfare, Zwolinski argues. And it can be justified by libertarian principles.

This morning, I did a short interview with the Cato Institute about the libertarian case for a Basic Income Guarantee. The immediate stimulus for the conversation was the recent Swiss proposal to pay each and every and every citizen 2,500 francs (about 2,800 USD) per month. But conversation quickly turned to the question of whether some form of basic income proposal might be compatible with libertarianism. Some of my colleagues at Bleeding Heart Libertarians have certainly expressed enthusiasm for it in the past. And over at, Matthew Feeney recently published a short but favorable writeup of the idea.

Of course, as with any policy proposal, the details matter a lot. And the Swiss proposal is problematic in a number of ways. For starters, 2,800 USD a month means that a married couple could get $67,200 per year for doing nothing. And while its true that Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of per capita income, thats still an awful lot of money. Furthermore, the Swiss proposal seems to involve implementing a basic income in addition to their currently existing welfare system. Few libertarians would be willing to sign up for that deal. But as a replacement for traditional welfare programs, there is a lot for libertarians to like about a basic income.

Still skeptical? Well, here are three libertarian arguments in support of a Basic Income Guarantee. I begin with a relatively weak proposal that even most hard-core libertarians should be even to accept. I then move to stronger proposals that involve some deviation from the plumb-line view. But only justifiable deviations, of course.

1) A Basic Income Guarantee would be much better than the current welfare state.

Current federal social welfare programs in the United States are an expensive, complicated mess. According to Michael Tanner, the federal government spent more than $668 billion on over one hundred and twenty-six anti-poverty programs in 2012. When you add in the $284 billion spent by state and local governments, that amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America.

Wouldnt it be better just to write the poor a check?

Each one of those anti-poverty programs comes with its own bureaucracy and its own Byzantine set of rules. If you want to shrink the size and scope of government, eliminating those departments and replacing them with a program so simple it could virtually be administered by a computer seems like a good place to start. Eliminating bloated bureaucracies means more money in the hands of the poor and lower costs to the taxpayer. Win/Win.

A Basic Income Guarantee would also be considerably less paternalistic then the current welfare state, which is the bastard child of conservative judgment and progressive condescension toward the poor, in Andrea Castillos choice words. Conservatives want to help the poor, but only if they can demonstrate that they deserve it by jumping through a series of hoops meant to demonstrate their willingness to work, to stay off drugs, and preferably to settle down into a nice, stable, bourgeois family life. And while progressives generally reject this attempt to impose traditional values on the poor, they have almost always preferred in-kind grants to cash precisely as a way of making sure the poor get the help they really need. Shouldnt we trust poor people to know what they need better than the federal government?

2) A Basic Income Guarantee might be required on libertarian grounds as reparation for past injustice.

One of libertarianisms most distinctive commitments is its belief in the near-inviolability of private property rights. But it does not follow from this commitment that the existing distribution of property rights ought to be regarded as inviolable, because the existing distribution is in many ways the product of past acts of uncompensated theft and violence. However attractive libertarianism might be in theory, LibertarianismStarting Now! has the ring of special pleading, especially when it comes from the mouths of people who have by and large emerged at the top of the bloody and murderous mess that is our collective history.

Radical libertarians have proposed several approaches to dealing with past injustice. But one suggestion that a lot of people seem to forget about comes from an unlikely source. Most people remember Robert Nozicks Anarchy, State, and Utopia as a fairly uncompromising defense of natural-rights libertarianism. And most people remember that Nozick wrote that any state that goes beyond the minimal functions of protecting its citizens negative rights would be itself rights-violating and therefore unjust.

But Nozicks entitlement theory of justice is a historical one, and an important component of that theory is a principle of rectification to deal with past injustice. Nozick himself provided almost no details at all regarding the nature or proper application of this principle (though others have speculated). But in one fascinating passage, Nozick suggests that we might regard patterned principles of justice (like Rawls Difference Principle) as rough rules of thumb for approximating the result of a detailed application of the principle of rectification. Heres what Nozick has to say:

Perhaps it is best to view some patterned principles of distributive justice as rough rules of thumb meant to approximate the general results of applying the principle of rectification of injustice. For example, lacking much historical information, and assuming (1) that victims of injustice generally do worse than they otherwise would and (2) that those from the least well-off group in the society have the highest probabilities of being the (descendants of) victims of the most serious injustice who are owed compensation by those who benefited from the injustices (assumed to be those better off, though sometimes the perpetrators will be others in the worst-off group), then a rough rule of thumb for rectifying injustices might seem to be the following: organize society so as to maximize the position of whatever group ends up least well-off in the society (p. 231).

In a world in which all property was acquired by peaceful processes of labor-mixing and voluntary trade, a tax-funded Basic Income Guarantee might plausibly be held to violate libertarian rights. But our world is not that world. And since we do not have the information that would be necessary to engage in a precise rectification of past injustices, and since simply ignoring those injustices seems unfair, perhaps something like a Basic Income Guarantee can be justified as an approximate rectification?

3. A Basic Income Guarantee might be required to meet the basic needs of the poor.

The previous two arguments both view a basic income as a kind of second-best policy, desirable not for its own sake but either as less-bad than what weve currently got or a necessary corrective to past injustice. But can libertarians go further than this? Could there be a libertarian case for the basic income not as a compromise but as an ideal?

There can and there has.

Both Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek advocated for something like a Basic Income Guarantee as a proper function of government, though on somewhat different grounds. Friedmans argument comes in chapter 9 of his Capitalism and Freedom, and is based on the idea that private attempts at relieving poverty involve what he called neighborhood effects or positive externalities. Such externalities, Friedman argues, mean that private charity will be undersupplied by voluntary action.

[W]e might all of us be willing to contribute to the relief of poverty, provided everyone else did. We might not be willing to contribute the same amount without such assurance.

And so, Friedman concludes, some governmental action to alleviate poverty is justified. Specifically, government is justified in setting a floor under the standard of life of every person in the community, a floor that takes the form of his famous Negative Income Tax proposal.

Friedrich Hayeks argument, appearing 17 years later in volume 3 of his Law, Legislation, and Liberty, is even more powerful. Heres the crucial passage:

The assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone, or a sort of floor below which nobody need fall even when he is unable to provide for himself, appears not only to be wholly legitimate protection against a risk common to all, but a necessary part of the Great Society in which the individual no longer has specific claims on the members of the particular small group into which he was born. (emphasis added)

To those who know of Hayek only through second-hand caricatures of his argument from The Road to Serfdom, his claim here will no doubt be surprising. But as my colleague Kevin Vallier has documented repeatedly, Hayek was not opposed to the welfare state as such (not even in the Road to Serfdom). At the very least, he regarded certain aspects of the welfare state as permissible options that states might pursue. But the passage above suggests that he may have had an even stronger idea in mind – that a basic income is not merely a permissible option but a mandatory requirement of democratic legitimacy – a policy that must be instituted in order to justify the coercive power that even a Hayekian state would exercise over its citizens.

I said in the beginning of this essay that in evaluating basic income proposals, the details matter a lot. But in the arguments above, Ive mostly put those details to the side, even glossing over the difference, for instance, between a Basic Income Guarantee and a Negative Income Tax. Before I close, I want to say at least a little about the different policy options. But there are a lot of different options, and a lot of details to each. So bear in mind that what follows is only a sketch.

A Basic Income Guarantee involves something like an unconditional grant of income to every citizen. So, on most proposals, everybody gets a check each month. Unconditional here means mostly that the check is not conditional on ones wealth or poverty or willingness to work. But some proposals, like Charles Murrays, would go only to adult citizens. And almost all proposals are given only to citizens. Most proposals specify that income earned on top of the grant is subject to taxation at progressive rates, but the grant itself is not.

A Negative Income Tax involves issuing a credit to those who fall below the threshold of tax liability, based on how far below the threshold they fall. So the amount of money one receives (the negative income tax) decreases as ones earnings push one up to the threshold of tax liability, until it reaches zero, and then as one earns more money one begins to pay the government money (the positive income tax).

The Earned Income Tax Credit is the policy we actually have in place currently in the United States. It was inspired by Friedmans Negative Income Tax proposal, but falls short in that it applies only to persons who are actually working.

The US Basic Income Guarantee Network has a nice and significantly more detailed overview of some of the different policies. You can watch Milton Friedman explain his Negative Income Tax proposal with characteristic clarity to William F. Buckley here. And for an extended and carefully thought out defense of one particular Basic Income Guarantee proposal from a libertarian perspective, I highly recommend Charles Murrays short book, In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State.

1) Disincentives – One of the most common objections to Basic Income Guarantees is that they would create objectionably strong disincentives to employment. And those who make this objection can draw some support from experimental studies with the Negative Income Tax in the United States in the 1960s and 70s.

But the significance of this objection depends a lot on the details of the proposal under consideration, and is probably overstated, anyway. After all, with a Basic Income Guarantee, the money you get is yours to keep. You dont lose it if you take a job and start earning money. And so in that way the disincentives to employment it creates are probably less severe than those created by currently existing welfare programs where employment income is often a bar to eligibility.

With a Negative Income Tax, the disincentives are there, but arguably at an acceptable level. After all, under a NIT if you are unemployed and then you get a job, youre going to have more money as a result. You wont keep all of the money. But nobody keeps all of the money they earn from their job – a large chunk of it goes to taxes. Its the same idea here, except in reverse – hence, the label of negative income tax.

2) Effects on Migration – When most people think about helping the poor, they forget about two groups that are largely invisible – poor people in other countries, and poor people who havent been born yet (see this paper by Tyler Cowen for more). With respect to the first of those groups, I think (and have argued before) that there is a real worry that a Basic Income Guarantee in the United States would create pressures to restrict immigration even more than it already is. After all, when every new immigrant is one more person collecting a check from your tax dollars, its not entirely unreasonable to view those immigrants as a threat, and to be more willing to use the coercive power of the state to keep them out. That worries me, because I think the last thing anybody with a bleeding heart ought to want to do is to block the poorest of the poor from access to what has been one of the most effective anti-poverty programs ever devised – namely, a policy of relatively open immigration into the relatively free economy of the United States. Especially when ones justification for doing so is merely to provide a bit of extra cash to people who are already citizens of one of the wealthiest countries on the face of the planet.

3) Effects on Economic Growth – Even a modest slowdown of economic growth can have dramatic effects when compounded over a period of decades. And so even if whatever marginal disincentives a Basic Income Guarantee would produce wouldnt do much to hurt currently existing people, it might do a lot to hurt people who will be born at some point in the future. Heres a thought experiment for the mathematically inclined among you: imagine that Americans in 1800 decided to institute a social welfare policy that reduced annual economic growth by 1%, and that the policy was maintained intact to the present day. How much poorer a country would America be? How much poorer would the poorest Americans be? Even if the only thing you cared about was improving the lot of the poor, would whatever benefits the policy produced have been worth it?

Tyler Cowen and Jim Manzi put forward what seem to me to be the most damning objections to a Basic Income Guarantee – that however attractive the idea may be in theory, any actually implemented policy will be subject to political tinkering and rent-seeking until it starts to look just as bad as, if not worse than, what weve already got. Murrays proposal to implement a Basic Income Guarantee via a constitutional amendment that simultaneously eliminates all other redistributive programs goes some way toward insulating the policy from the pressures of ordinary politics. But Im not sure its enough.

The journal Basic Income Studies published a special issue on libertarianism and the Basic Income Guarantee, with contributions from me , Mike Munger , Pete Boettke and Adam Martin , Dan Moseley , Dan Layman , Brian Powell , and Peter Vallentyne .

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The Libertarian Case for a Basic Income |

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The US Government’s Oppression of the Poor, Homeless

 Government Oppression  Comments Off on The US Government’s Oppression of the Poor, Homeless
Jun 172016

By Rev. Rebecca

The United States is far from being a “righteous” nation. Many people do not realize how much we as a nation oppress the poor, weak, homeless, and strangers among us. Additionally, most Americans are willfully ignorant to the oppression we cause overseas in poor nations with our consumeristic, capitalistic, and wealthy lifestyles.

Many of our laws are set up to favor the middle and upper classes and oppress the lower and homeless classes in the United States. I believe our nation is very guilty of the Old Testament prophetic charges against nations who oppress the poor and orphaned. Having worked for years with homeless children and youth (most of whom are homeless because they were abandoned or abused severely), I have seen the way our nation’s laws oppress them.

For example, it is illegal in many US cities to be homeless. This means, as a homeless person, you can be arrested for any reason anywhere, simply because you have no home address. This gives businesses and anyone the right to call the police and have a homeless person removed or arrested simply for being somewhere they don’t want them to be (even because you don’t like how they smell!). This includes all public and private places. Most middle and upper class folks have absolutely no sense of their human rights being taken away to such a radical degree…they can’t even fathom it.

For people who think that “homeless shelters” are the answer, please understand that most all shelters are only open at night and there are only enough shelters to house a very small percentage of homeless on any given night. This means the majority of homeless have to go “somewhere” to sleep/keep warm but are always in danger of being berated, removed, or arrested simply for being there. I could recount for days the stories of homeless youths who tried to hide in parks or buildings because they were so exhausted and in need of sleep, only to be berated, beaten, or arrested for sleeping in a public/private locations. They are treated as less than human beings simply because they are homeless. There is nowhere for them to go.

Another law which is common in most US cities outlaws sitting or “loitering” on sidewalks in the city. Spokane, WA is a city who enforces this law diligently. Do you know the purpose of the law? It is to primarily to prevent homeless youths from sitting or panhandling on the sidewalks (panhandling is illegal). However, most homeless youths have no other way of getting food and money (and nowhere else to go during the day)…they have to go somewhere and so they go where the people are to seek aid. However, businesses complain that it is bad for business to have homeless around and suburban shoppers complain that they don’t like “seeing” homeless youth…so this law is enacted. However, I can assure you that if you are dressed well, this law will never be enforced. Middle and upper class youth wearing the latest from the Gap will never be berated, beaten, or arrested for sitting on the sidewalks. But if you look homeless, you will. I have witnessed police and security kick and beat homeless youths for sitting on the sidewalk on numerous occasions. Having homeless around is “bad” for commercial industries and apparently insults middle and upper class sensibilities. Just because I was with homeless youths, police have threatened to beat me too. This is not uncommon…this happens in some form in every US city and goes totally unnoticed. Sadly, our nation does not look out for the poor and orphaned.

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The US Government’s Oppression of the Poor, Homeless

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Review: Islands (Bush Theatre)

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Jan 222015

Upper Cut (Southwark Playhouse) REVIEWS King Lear (Holy Trinity Church, Guildfor…

Olivier Award-nominated Caroline Horton’s new play about tax havens has opened at the west London venue

Within two years, says Oxfam, the richest 1% will own the same as the rest of us: that is, half the world’s wealth. That wealth should, we’re told, trickle down. The tide should rise and, as the rich get richer, so too should the poor. Sadly, that’s not how it works. As the rich get richer, the accountants get creative. Offshore accounts, doomed films and other tax avoidance schemes mean the poor get next to nothing.

We should be getting angry. Instead, we get Caroline Horton’s Islands: a mealy-mouthed bouffon show so tedious and unintelligible that it slowly saps whatever indignation you had on arrival. It takes close to two hours to tell us that tax avoidance is rather repulsive. Islands means well, but it doesn’t mean much more than that.

Horton casts the super-rich as gods, holed up on their haven, at a safe distance from the rest of us in the so-called Shitworld. She plays Mary, a mangled, Caliban-esque deity, with saggy tits and disco ball testicles, who spent her teenage years locked in her bedroom, masturbating and making up her own rules. On an island, there really is no such thing as society and if there is, it’s small enough to be bent to your advantage.

With her two androgynous assistants, Agent and Swill (John Biddle and Seriol Davies), Mary enlists two ordinary humans, Adam and Eve, to do her cherry-picking and stave off the shit. Now and then, the blind-eyed taxman, Paul, plays hardball on the phone, and the determined voices of Cameron, Osborne and Co. echo out of sewers and toilets, threatening crackdowns.

Nothing of note really happens: Eve defects, Adam demeans himself by dragging up as Austerity Measures and those threatened crackdowns never come. Instead, there’s a piecemeal, patchwork quality, like sketches strung together, almost entirely without humour or dramatic tension. Almost everything onstage Horton’s florid language, Oliver Townsend’s attractive, cacophonous design, Biddle and Davies’ twee, twinkling songs and the soup of literary allusions seems determined to obfuscate. Islands is basically one massive mixed metaphor.

What’s missing, above all else, is an argument let alone, any critical thinking. Islands never charges us with complicity or selfishness on a smaller scale, nor does it leave room to consider the consequences of a clampdown on the corporations keeping society afloat. There’s no recognition, either, that Britain is seen as a tax haven itself; a new Switzerland, a safety deposit box nation. In fact, Islands is less a play, than a placard. Best avoided.

Islands runs at the Bush Theatre until 21st February. Click here for more information and to book tickets.

By providing information about entertainment and cultural events on this site, shall not be deemed to endorse, recommend, approve and/or guarantee such events, or any facts, views, advice and/or information contained therein.

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Review: Islands (Bush Theatre)

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Diving the Poor Knights Islands – 29 December 2014 – Video

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Jan 112015

Diving the Poor Knights Islands – 29 December 2014
Our first of two dives on 29 December 2014. We went out with Dive! Tutukaka to the Poor Knights Islands about 22km off shore for what turned out to be an epic dive trip. This first dive of…

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Diving the Poor Knights Islands – 29 December 2014 – Video

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RotMG – Goes way too deep, ends up getting murdered by illuminati (MLG) – Video

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Dec 142014

RotMG – Goes way too deep, ends up getting murdered by illuminati (MLG)
Greetings earthlings, today my brave friend Llogtepop goes so deep in god lands we could see Adele rolling. He went so deep, illuminati had no choice other than slaying this poor fellow. Ripples…

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RotMG – Goes way too deep, ends up getting murdered by illuminati (MLG) – Video

Why Marketing? for SEO Professionals – Video

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Nov 302014

Why Marketing? for SEO Professionals
Many of the Digital Media Marketers do not go through a specific Marketing Course. This course aims to explain the basics of Marketing. Sorry for the poor graphics, but I promise the course…

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Why Marketing? for SEO Professionals – Video

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Marshall J. Brown, reporter and Second Amendment advocate

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Nov 282014

Feb. 28, 1936 Oct. 10, 2014

Marshall J. Brown, a former Buffalo Courier-Express reporter and advocate of the right to bear arms, died Friday at his 63-acre gentlemans farm in Colden after an extended battle with multiple system atrophy, a neurological disease. He was 78.

The native of the Bronx came from a newspaper family, with his father, Max, and two uncles, all editors at United Press International.

Marsh was a feisty, hard-nosed old-time newsman, like one of the characters youd see in an old movie like The Front Page, said Buffalo News reporter Dan Herbeck, who worked with Mr. Brown at Buffalo Police Headquarters in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He carried a gun when he was on the job, sometimes beat the police to crime scenes. On more than one occasion, he conducted his own investigations and helped the police solve crimes.

Herbeck said he will never forget the time he and Mr. Brown in 1982 both police reporters for Buffalos two competing newspapers decided to go out and have lunch together. They were walking toward a small diner when a waitress came running outside, spattered with blood and screaming, Help, he killed Ellie!

Marsh grabbed his gun out of the holster and we went running inside. This poor waitress was on the floor, bleeding to death, Herbeck recalled. A mental patient who had recently been released from a psychiatric center had jumped over the counter, grabbed a knife and began stabbing this poor woman. Then he ran out of the place. Marsh and I ran outside, looking for the guy, but he was long gone. The police came and we told them what happened.

Mr. Browns first newspaper job was at age 17 as a copyboy at the New York Herald Tribune. After earning a journalism degree at New York University, he joined the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal where he worked as a reporter, photographer and darkroom technician.

An avid outdoorsman, he also wrote a column called Bait n Bullets in Lockport.

In 1961 he joined the staff of the Courier-Express and covered a number of sensational cases, including the .22 caliber killer case and many organized crime murders. Mr. Brown won a number of awards from the Associated Press, but was most proud of his James Madison Award from the Second Amendment Foundation.

When the Courier folded in 1982, he went to South Africa for a month where he hunted big game. He also hunted in Mexico, Greece, Denmark and Canada. He held an Open Water Scuba Diver rating and dove in the Caribbean and the Red Sea. He was an ardent sailor and fisherman.,

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Marshall J. Brown, reporter and Second Amendment advocate

Marysville Pilchuck Killer Jaylen Fryberg Undetectable illuminati Mind Control Programmed HS Slave – Video

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Oct 262014

Marysville Pilchuck Killer Jaylen Fryberg Undetectable illuminati Mind Control Programmed HS Slave
The unpopular truth about mind control salves like this poor lost soul Jaylen Fryberg has to be said. The illuminati undetectable mind control “educated” slave “professors” in society will…

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Marysville Pilchuck Killer Jaylen Fryberg Undetectable illuminati Mind Control Programmed HS Slave – Video

Papantonio: The Payday Loan Racketeering Scam – Video

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Oct 092014

Papantonio: The Payday Loan Racketeering Scam
This segment originally aired on the September 28th, 2014 episode of Ring of Fire on Free Speech TV. The payday loan industry has come under fire in recent months for preying on the poor in…

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Papantonio: The Payday Loan Racketeering Scam – Video

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Incredible Diving Poor Knights Islands New Zealand GoPro – Video

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May 062014

Incredible Diving Poor Knights Islands New Zealand GoPro
Awesome diving at the Poor Knights Islands in New Zealand with Ocean Blue, April 2014 diving at Northern Arch, Tye-Die Arch, Blue Mau Mau.

By: alan smith

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Incredible Diving Poor Knights Islands New Zealand GoPro – Video

Remember Karpal by standing up for JUSTICE, INTEGRITY & FREEDOM – Guan Eng

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Apr 202014

Remember Karpal by standing up for JUSTICE, INTEGRITY & FREEDOM – Guan Eng

We mourn the untimely and unexpected passing of DAP National Chairman and Member of Parliament for Bukit Gelugor, Sdr Karpal Singh. Sdr Karpal is a 8-term Member of Parliament of Bukit Gelugor and Jelutong, as well as a 3 term state assemblyman in Penang, first elected in 1978.

For 40-years, Sdr Karpal dedicated his life to the legal profession, fighting for justice, upholding our constitutional rights of freedom and human rights. His landmark cases are textbook references for lawyers.

A devoted father and husband to his wife Gurmit, both of them brought up 5 children who are all successful practicing lawyers except for the youngest who is an accountant. The eldest Jagdeep is presently a Penang State EXCO member whilst the second eldest Gobind is a Member of Parliament for Puchong.

With his life suddenly cut short at 74 years following a tragic accident on 17 April 2014, Penang has lost an upstanding and outstanding leader and lawyer. The rakyat lost a fearless “tiger” with an indomitable spirit who stood up for the poor, weak, defenceless and dispossesed.

But it his fighting spirit that stands out. You can detain Karpal physically but you can never detain his spirit. I saw this myself whilst we were both detained without trial under the now repealed Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1988 in Kamunting Detention Camp. He suffered from severe spinal back pains but refused to yield.

This refusal to yield was evident after Karpal suffered an unfortunate accident in 2005 which paralysed him waist-down. Not only did he overcome this paralysis but he continued his brilliant legal and political career. Sdr Karpal became the first disabled person in Malaysia to be elected twice to Parliament, both times with huge majorities.

In seeking both rule of law and a better Malaysia, Sdr Karpal practiced what he preached refusing to charge for cases of gross injustices whether the famous VIPs like Parliamentary Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Sdr Lim Kit Siang or the poor Malay, Indian or Chinese.

His departure will leave an immense void not only in his family’s lives, but also in those of all Malaysians whose lives have been inspired by his principled cause.

To Sdr Karpals family, we share your grief in this time of bereavement with deepest sympathies and condolences. Thomas Jefferson said that when the government fears the people, there is liberty; when the people fear the government, there is tyranny. Throughout his life, Karpal showed us how not to fear the government.

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Remember Karpal by standing up for JUSTICE, INTEGRITY & FREEDOM – Guan Eng

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Libertarians become vocal critics of exhortation

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Jan 302014


The most interesting criticisms of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, have come from libertarians who are closest to the economic views the pope denounced.

In this document, Francis did not mince words. He condemned “trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and nave trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” He warned against laissez-faire adherents who “reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.” The pope chastised “the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”

“Speaking for libertarians, my objection to what the pope wrote derives from two things,” the Cato Institute’s Marian Tupy said in an interview with NCR. “First, there is the factual statement. The pope says the world is becoming worse, but that can be measured. In almost 200 pages, he never cites a single study, a single number, to support his claim.” Tupy, who wrote an article encapsulating his objections in The Atlantic, cites a host of statistics to support his claim that “capitalism, compared to other systems, does very well at bringing people out of poverty.”

Tupy’s second objection has to do with the lens through which he and the pope view the prevailing economic situation. “The pope compares the world to a future utopia,” Tupy said. “I look to the past and find data to support my views.” Francis would, no doubt, plead guilty to the charge, but he would be unlikely to use the word “utopia.” In the language of the Catholic church, that future to which Catholics are called is “the kingdom of God.”

“My factual disagreement with the pope has no bearing on my respect for the man nor on my belief that everyone has a moral duty to help the poor,” Tupy said. But, he sticks by his conclusion in his Atlantic article: “Pope Francis has a big heart, but his credibility as a voice of justice and morality would be immeasurably improved if he based his statements on facts.”

A similar critique of Evangelii Gaudium came from the pro-market Acton Institute, which is run by a Catholic priest, Fr. Robert Sirico. In a video discussing Evangelii Gaudium, Sirico posed a series of questions: “Where are these unhampered markets?” he asked. “Where is the market absolutely autonomous?” Sirico seems to be suggesting that the pope was creating straw men and attacking them, and expresses the hope that future exhortations will confront the economic questions Sirico poses.

Francis has not been lacking in defenders. “The Catholic apologists for libertarianism — and, sadly, there are a few who try to do this — always begin with condescension,” said Stephen Schneck, director of The Catholic University of America’s Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies. “The pope’s pity for the poor is understandable, they say, but he’s naive about the miracle of the market. Baloney. Not only are such remarks patronizing, they’re proof that the apologists don’t understand the papal teachings. Pope Francis is not telling Christians to stoop to pity the poor. He’s saying private charity, however wonderful and holy it is, can never be enough. He’s saying that the poor also need justice. They need social justice, distributive justice, redistributive justice. He’s saying that private charity by itself can never provide that justice given the moral deficiency of economic and social systems governed only by heartless invisible hands.”

Lew Daly, a fellow at the secular think tank Demos in New York, thinks Francis hit the nail on the head in Evangelii Gaudium. “Pope Francis is not an innovator of church teaching in any way,” Daly told NCR. “The innovation, compared to other voices in the Catholic church, is in his correct and properly urgent analysis of what is wrong in the church’s eyes. Capitalism is not just ‘broken’; it is inherently out of control, in a late phase of development, because a libertarian creed with mistaken precepts about human nature has infected political institutions, economic elites and even the church.”

It is true that while Francis’ speaking and writing style is more accessible than that of his predecessors, the content of what he says exhibits deep continuity with previous doctrinal statements. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII issued the first major papal statement on socioeconomic issues and he warned against the excesses of both capitalism and socialism. In 1931, Pope Pius XI wrote, “Just as the unity of human society cannot be founded on an opposition of classes, so also the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching.” And, just one year ago, in his World Day of Peace message, Pope Benedict XVI stated, “It is alarming to see hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism.”

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