Author Archive | Brian Phillips

What About the Poor?

A common question, when discussing capitalism, is: What about the poor? In other words, won’t the poor be helpless and hopeless in a capitalist society? The premise underlying such questions is altruism. According to altruism, we have a moral duty to serve others. According to altruism, we have an obligation to help those in need. […]

Lobbying and Political Power

Lobbyists are not a creation of the free market, but of a mixed economy–an economy with a mixture of freedoms and controls. When government has the power to arbitrarily dictate the actions of individuals, individuals will seek legislation that is favorable to them.

Who Owns Your Life?

One of the most important and far reaching questions in moral philosophy is: Who is the proper beneficiary of an individual’s actions? There are only two possible answers to the question: The individual taking the action, or others. “Others” may mean the community, the race, the nation, or any number of groups. Your answer to […]

Capitalism is Good in Theory and in Practice

Upon hearing an argument for capitalism, many respond, “That is good in theory, but it would never work in real life.” Such a statement is wrong in both theory and in practice. (And it is actually an example of a fundamental philosophical error–the mind/body dichotomy.) What is a theory? Merriam-Webster defines a theory as “a […]

The Pacific Railway Act and the Interstate Commerce Act

In 1887, Congress created the first federal regulatory agency by enacting the Interstate Commerce Act. As has often been the case since that time, the act was a response to the problems created by previous government interventions. Under the Pacific Railway Act, enacted in 1862, the federal government was to provide land and low-interest loans […]

Myths, Fallacies, and the History of Capitalism

I know that I should not be surprised that most people have little knowledge regarding the history of capitalism. Our schools certainly don’t teach it, and everybody “knows” that capitalism leads to all sorts of evils, such as abuse of employees by employers, “predatory” lending, and “dog-eat-dog” competition. These myths and fallacies are repeated by […]

Supply and Demand in Education

In recent years, it has become increasingly popular to argue that government should be operated more like a business. As an example, a manifesto written by sixteen public school executives explains how to fix public schools: Let’s stop ignoring basic economic principles of supply and demand and focus on how we can establish a performance-driven […]

Omniscience and Defending Capitalism

If you have ever attempted to explain capitalism, you have likely been confronted with a demand that you be omniscient. The demand is seldom, if ever, expressed that explicitly. Instead, it often takes the form of a question: how would some service, such as roads, be provided by private companies? The question is usually accompanied […]

The Founders and the “General Welfare”

The Constitution limits the powers of the Federal government. However, even a perfect document cannot stand up to philosophical evasion and corruption. Without the proper moral base, the principles of the Constitution could not be defended, much less kept alive. To illustrate this, let us consider a few words in the preamble of the Constitution—what […]

Jim Crow, Racism, and the Free Market

It is often claimed that capitalism leads to all sorts of ills, such as racism and cartels (or monopolies). As with most attacks on capitalism, these claims attempt to blame capitalism for the consequences of government intervention into the economy. The Jim Crow laws illustrate this point. Following the Civil War former slave owners faced […]

Interventions Beget Interventions

It has long been noted that government intervention seldom, if ever, accomplishes the stated purpose. When the failure of some regulation, subsidy, or program becomes clear, legislators respond with further interventions. As an example, consider the solar panel industry. Solyndra, which received more than $500 billion in federal loan guarantees, is only one of many […]

To Braid or Not to Braid

Benta Diaw immigrated to the United States from Senegal. She decided to open a business braiding hair as she was taught by her grandmother in Africa. However, the state of Washington declared her business illegal. Was Diaw misleading her clients and using dangerous chemicals on their hair? Was she engaging in some other form of […]

Big Oil: Please, Please Let Us Drill

The headline on CNN.com said it all: “Big Oil’s promise: Let us drill, we’ll hire 1.4 million workers.” The article goes on to say: With job creation taking center stage in American politics, the oil industry Wednesday made a pitch for drilling more widely. With looser restrictions, the industry says it could deliver 1.4 million […]

What About The Poor?

A common question, when discussing capitalism, is: What about the poor? In other words, won’t the poor be helpless and hopeless in a capitalist society? The premise underlying such questions is altruism. According to altruism, we have a moral duty to serve others. According to altruism, we have an obligation to help those in need. […]

The False Security of the SEC

Founded in the aftermath of the Great Depression, the stated mission of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is “to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.” While this seems like a laudable goal, like all forms of government intervention, the actual results are considerably different from the stated intentions. […]

Social Problems and the Solution

If we look at any number of social problems, we find numerous similarities. No matter the issue–education, energy, infrastructure, pollution, and much more–Americans look to government to provide the solution. These issues provoke heated political debates, with Republicans and Democrats alike proposing a new program. In each instance, the proposed solutions are more taxpayer money, […]

Nullification Nullifies Freedom

The advocates of “states’ rights” have long pushed the idea of nullification–the doctrine that a state can declare a federal law null and void within that state. (Sadly, even Thomas Jefferson endorsed the idea.) More recently, many conservatives and Libertarians have been pushing the idea of jury nullification. The doctrine of nullification is put forth […]

Rush Limbaugh vs Individual Rights

I happened to hear Rush Limbaugh on Friday. He sarcastically chastised the pundits and “really smart people” who argue that the Republican party must be more inclusive. We should reach out to women, he said, by being pro-abortion. We should reach out to gays, he said, by supporting same-sex marriages. We should reach out to […]