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Mandated spending is pushing on thread.

August 31, 2010 8 comments

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The folks over at Econ Stories made history in January of this year when they released Fear the Boom and Bust, the first popular, Ke$ha-endorsed rap video about economics. The video depicts world-renowned economists John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich August Hayek arguing about how the federal government’s fiscal and monetary policies affect the “Boom and Bust” business cycle, focusing on the parallels between the Great Depression and the housing and lending collapse which began near the end of the Bush administration and has continued throughout the Obama administration.

As with any rap, the main feature of the video is its lyrics, which contain the topic of today’s discussion: “Your focus on spending is pushing on thread.” This line is a rather esoteric reference, by way of clever metaphor, to monetary asymmetry. These are daunting words, but they actually refer to a very intuitive concept which has eluded policy-makers and even many economists for over a century. The aim of this post is to help the average observer understand just what is meant by the phrase “pushing on thread,” as well as to provide a conceptual base for further investigation of how ignorance of economics has had grave consequences for nations around the world.

The best way to discover economic principles is through thought experiments that investigate cause-and-effect relationships. Suppose, for example, that the average individual eats out at restaurants or bars about twice a week. If the government were to impose a law mandating that no person may eat out more than once a week, it would obviously have a negative impact on economic activity. In fact just about everyone can guess this if asked. Unfortunately, not so many of us can really explain precisely what is meant by “economic activity” or how the government’s new rule reduces it. Nevertheless, we understand instinctively that economic activity must be depressed by forbidding people from eating at restaurants.

What actually happens in a situation like this is as follows: Consumers, who at any given time have only a certain amount of liquid assets (money) they can spend, are willing to spend some of their assets at restaurants. However it may be that they decided to eat out twice a week, that’s what they’re willing to do. When the government declares that they may not do this, it prevents economic transactions from occurring. This is “bad” for one simple reason – people wanted those transactions to occur. Specifically, restaurant owners and restaurant customers wanted to make an exchange of money for food. They wanted to do this because each of them valued what the other had more than what they were giving. The customer would rather have a meal, and the owner would rather have cash. If the transaction occurs (the customers eat at the restaurant), everyone feels better off than before. If the government prevents this, economic activity – specifically, the exchange of assets in a beneficial way – is diminished.

Such a law won’t cause all of the consumers’ wealth to go to waste, of course. By preventing people from patronizing restaurants, the government induces them to do something else with their money. However, whatever it is that they decide to do, it is important to remember that it will always be their second choice. They would rather have spent their money on eating at a restaurant than whatever they spend it on instead. Therefore, the value of what they buy with the money they would have used at restaurants will be less to them. They will be worse off. Similarly, the restaurant owners will be worse off, even if they leave the restaurant industry and take up another profession. This is their second choice profession – it was not the most appealing and profitable venture for them. The transactions that people wanted to make to increase their lot in life have been prevented by the government, and whatever is substituted is by definition less beneficial.

Thus it is now clear precisely how a government mandate against eating out more than once per week reduces economic activity, in the sense of forcing a real reduction in beneficial transactions. The concept of pushing on thread enters if the government attempts to employ the reverse idea. Suppose, now, that a law is passed which requires each person to eat out at least three times per week. Remember the assumption that the average individual eats out twice per week. If limiting the amount that people can eat out has the effect of reducing economic activity, perhaps mandating that people eat out more often will increase economic activity. Certainly, restaurant owners might tend to think so. As there will be more transactions in the restaurant industry, revenue will go up for restaurant owners, some of which will be passed on to their employees. Indeed, more restaurants will be built, and that will create jobs in construction, cooking, and waiting. Consumers will have more meals, and probably better ones, too.

It would be great – right? Not at all. Mandating more consumption of products and services does not have the opposite effect as mandating less. If anything, it actually has the same effect, as total per-capita product still declines. This is the essence of the “pushing on thread” metaphor. If the government’s policies impacted the economy in a manner that were so easily manipulable and reversible as, say, a door – pull to open, push to close – then it is doubtful such highly educated experts would be hired to determine the government’s policies. Instead, though, the effects of policy are complicated, and the more they are analyzed, the more depressing the conclusions become. Mandates and regulations pull down, but can not push up, on the health of the economy.

To see how this is so, recall that consumers have only a certain amount of money to spend at a time. They must budget this money somehow; spending infinitely is not an option. Therefore, as people are forced to spend more and more at restaurants, they must by definition make sacrifices elsewhere. Perhaps before a person went out to eat twice a week and went to the theater once. Now he goes out to eat three times, but stops going to the theater to compensate. This, again, is not an even trade-off. He is actually worse than before, because he has stopped doing something he wanted to do – going to the theater – in favor of a second choice option. He didn’t want to spend all that money at a restaurant, so he is by definition worse off if he is required to do so.

Similarly, the business owners also take a hit in productivity. Obviously the owners of pre-existing restaurants will see a rise in profits if a law were passed requiring more visits to restaurants. Yet what is also true is that the owners of theaters must see a decline in profits, as well. As restaurants are built in the weeks and months after the law is passed, so also theaters are closed. Small business owners and their employees will shift industry. People will quit their jobs as theater directors and go to work in food service. Again, this is a second choice. Again, it is by definition worse than what was in place before. The converts from other industries to the food industry are taking jobs they weren’t trained to do in order to satisfy a fabricated demand that doesn’t really exist except that the government requires that it does.

Economists and politicians may preach about the stimulus effects of increased spending in the restaurant business. The newspapers scream headlines about the new jobs created by constructing more restaurants to meet the growing demand. Yet all of this is in the spirit of the broken window fallacy, commenting on the visible benefits of a transaction while ignoring the unseen opportunity costs. The idea put forth is that any economic transaction is by definition a good one, when in fact only a voluntary exchange benefits both parties involved. When praising the activity generated from a mandate to consume, it is necessary to ignore or dismiss the activity which would have occurred in the absence of the mandate – and that activity would have been preferable to both consumers and producers.

One might imagine that policymakers and politicians had by now come to understand the lesson in this simple parable of restaurants. At the very least, they certainly have hired economists and analysts who are too educated to fall for the basic fallacy of pushing on thread – of assuming that the opposite of an action which produces a result will produce the opposite result. Since elected officials tend to be of above average intelligence and education level, and since the federal government has many panels of experts with decades of experience in economics, it is to be expected that, although government policies may not always be perfect, they aren’t as utterly naive as requiring people to eat at restaurants and then declaring an improvement in the economy.

Aren’t they? It seems not, as the past three years have revealed an ever-increasing role of government spending and government-supported consumer spending in the name of “stimulating” the economy, without much consideration for the fact that it is impossible for such policies to increase total productivity at all. Remember the Bush package, when you and your significant other got mailed a check for six hundred dollars in order to stimulate the economy? The stated goal of this policy decision was to prevent an economic collapse and help boost GDP in the face of an expected moderate decline.

Well, it didn’t work at all. GDP ended up dropping far more than predicted, not in spite of the stimulus, but because of it. In fact, Bush’s idea failed so completely that Obama expanded upon it and extended it to affect more people. At every turn, with every new stimulus program, of which there have been about a half dozen since the housing crisis began three years ago, the federal government has sworn that there would be a demonstrable increase in GDP as a result, and every time real GDP (adjusted for inflation) has actually fallen.

This is by no means the extent of the damage – examples of government destruction rationalized as construction abound. It turns out that Barack Obama actually pulled the “mandate that people eat out” trick, only he did so with cars. The infamous Cash for Clunkers program, which one might argue is better termed “the General Motors bailout,” required Americans to buy new cars – with their own money, funneled through the federal government by taxes. Essentially, Obama offered a subsidy, funded out of tax-payer money, for people to scrap old cars and buy new ones. The program was sold on the claim that the act of buying new cars would spur economic growth.

It did not accomplish this, and it could not have under even the most generous interpretation. The philosophy of the program was flawed at its core, because it presumed that the activity generated by purchasing new cars must be good activity – ignoring the fact that, if it were beneficial to buy a new car, people would simply do that on their own. By taking tax dollars, which are of course collected by force, and demanding that they be applied to the purchase of automobiles, the government incentivized allocating resources to one particular sector of the economy, but by definition took resources away from other sectors where consumers would rather have used them. Requiring that people spend their money on a new car is no different from requiring that they spend it at a restaurant, and the damage done is exactly the same. Whatever else people would have spent their money on instead if given the choice, that was better for them than the purchase they were forced into. Ultimately, though, this was lost on policymakers, because they rationalized their decisions by observing the economic activity of buying cars and ignored everything else that money could have been used for.

When the government gets worried by how much of people’s money it is taking to fund purchases they didn’t choose to make, it has another card to play, which is monetary inflation and deficit spending. For a hundred years, Keynesian economists and federal-level politicians have struggled to convince the world – both the people in it and physics itself – that monetary policy allows the government to spend money it doesn’t actually have, if it’s careful enough. All manner of nuanced methods have arisen towards this aim. From the esoteric quantitative easing to tried-and-true manipulation of bonds and printing presses, an academic field and a sector of industry has grown up around selling the notion of the free lunch. The government, it is claimed, can fund programs with other methods besides simply taking money from individuals.

This, unfortunately, is not true. The government cannot create wealth out of thin air, no matter what elaborate practices its banks may employ. Whatever government money is not taken from individuals expressly through taxation is ultimately taken through inflation, the devaluation of savings accounts. When the government bails out banks with trillions of dollars of unofficial spending, this money is taken from the savings accounts of all Americans, especially the middle class, whose combined liquid assets represent the bulk of non-industrial capital. Literally, dollar bills and other written representations of money are created by the government, which the elites call “injecting money into the economy,” and the result is that the value of the dollar declines.

As the dollar is weakened, the ability of savings to buy real products and services decreases proportionally. That means that a person who used to be within a month of having enough money saved up to buy a boat, or who had savings to support his family for a year in case he lost his job, or who was preparing to send his children off to college, is now able to buy less than he otherwise would have with the same amount of dollars. This, then, is the cost of the bailout, and fits the exact same model as the fabled restaurant mandate. The government forces individuals to forgo purchases they otherwise would have made voluntarily in order to pay for a mandated bailout of corporations whose unwanted products and services failed to produce profits – all in the name of stimulating the economy.

The economic crisis has lead to the government fully doubling the monetary base in just a few short years. The long-term consequences of this will be the establishment of recession conditions as the “new normal.” The economy will not improve – it cannot improve – so long as the government continues its policy of mandating spending at levels above what would naturally occur. The American middle class individuals do not want to dig into their savings to bail out enormous banking corporations that have mismanaged their money. They do not want to buy new cars at a time when their income level is uncertain and the bare necessities are of immediate concern. When the government disrespects their decisions in managing their finances, it is only destroying any hope of recovery. Policies that focus on spending are pushing on thread, trying to create a stimulus but ultimately just allocating precious resources where they don’t belong. If Americans want a better future for themselves, the only option is less spending, less mandating, and less government.


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2012 presidential candidate Gary Johnson speaks in Raleigh

August 19, 2010 4 comments

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Could a libertarian be the next president of the United States of America?

Well, not quite. But if former governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson has his way, libertarians could see their strongest – if admittedly still rather weak – ally in the White House since before the World Wars. Unlike all presidents in recent memory, Mr. Johnson has a real grasp of the damage that the military-industrial complex has done to America through corporate lobbyists working government contracts who provide incentives for leaders to instigate and prolong unnecessary wars. Equally anomalous is his real track record of actually reducing the size of government in his home state by cutting unnecessary bureaucracies and decreasing funding for programs that failed to live up to their promised potential. Gary Johnson supports the legalization of marijuana and a dramatic reduction in federal involvement in policing other drugs, believing that prohibition as a concept cannot succeed due to the inability of government to enforce it without adopting draconian policies and spending enormously on prisons and police. Along the same vein of thought, he opposes the Department of homeland Security’s ever-increasing border patrol operations and supports amnesty for illegal immigrants that would not confer upon them citizenship, but rather the right to work and move freely throughout the country coupled with the obligation to pay the same taxes as citizens. While governor, Mr. Johnson never raised taxes a penny and still managed to improve the financial situation of New Mexico. Add to all that his belief that education can and should be almost entirely privatized and a non-federal issue, and it’s clear he has a real and meaningful history of promoting freedom across a broad spectrum of issues, even in areas where the political climate is especially unfriendly to the libertarian cause.

So what’s in these videos?

Gary Johnson speaks about his political views, personal philosophy, and career as governor of New Mexico in videos 1, 2, and 3. He begins taking questions in video 4, where he takes a question paraphrased from Reddit Libertarians. Questions continue throughout videos 5, 6, and 7. I apologize for the fact that it’s hard to hear some of the questions. If it makes you feel any better, I couldn’t hear half of them when I was physically present. Try putting on headphones; they are usually louder than built-in speakers.


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Candidates speak at Wake GOP kick-off rally

August 17, 2010 Leave a comment

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More than a dozen Republican candidates and several hundred supporters gathered last night at Broughton High School on Saint Marys Street to prepare for the height of campaign season. Most candidates, like B.J. Lawson (of the 4th Congressional district), Renee Ellmers (2nd), and Bill Randall (13th) were rallying voters in anticipation of the mid-term elections on November 2nd. However, one special guest who did not speak but conversed with many activists and concerned citizens is former governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson. Mr. Johnson is, in his own words, “laying down the groundwork for a presidential run” in 2012.

After enjoying free sweet tea and ice cream, Republicans settled down to listen to featured speakers. Renee Ellmers discussed her strong personal appreciation for the grassroots support she and other Republican candidates have been receiving throughout 2010. She expressed great confidence in her supporters’ ability to oust the 14-year Democratic incumbent Bob “Who are you?” Etheridge in November.

Ron Paul-endorsed candidate B.J. Lawson chose to focus his time on opposing 14-year Democratic incumbent David Price and his plan for amnesty for illegal immigrants. Lawson excoriated what he considered to be dishonesty on the part of Price and amnesty activists in downtown Durham, whom he accused of purporting to discuss citizenship for immigrants and in fact simply playing party politics. Lawson decried the activists for speaking Spanish at a Durham rally the previous night and mocked Price for saying “Yes” to the promises of immigrants whose speeches he could not even understand. At the immigration rally, Price had claimed that he was not advocating amnesty while simultaneously declaring his intent to give citizenship to illegal immigrants. This prompted Lawson to release a video discussing the issue. Some Lawson supporters criticized him for the speech and video, and there has been talk among the more libertarian wing of his base about whether he may be allowing racial prejudices to dictate policy views.

Finally, Tea Party enthusiast and Congressional candidate Bill Randall cautioned against the GOP becoming over-confident. He explained how many districts of North Carolina have been carefully gerrymandered to favor Democrats for over a century, with some districts having more registered Democrats than Republicans, Libertarians, and independents combined. The best strategy for the GOP, he said, is to focus on key issues where government itself has failed in recent years, such as the continuing economic collapse, and avoid making a big deal out of polarizing issues which are not critical to the election.

Afterward, I had an opportunity to speak in person with Governor Johnson about his views and his upcoming presidential campaign. He explained to me that he would like to see all drugs legalized at the federal level, though he expects that he will only be able to legalize marijuana and “do damage control” on other drugs. Drug use, he said, is a “health issue, not a criminal issue.”

By his own account, he tried very hard (and totally unsuccessfully) to implement a pure voucher system for schooling in New Mexico. As he explained, private schools cost less than public schools to run, so he suggested giving a voucher for three-fourths the current cost of public schooling to stave off the argument that vouchers take money away from public schools. Then, he said, if every single student chose to take the vouchers, public schools would still have 25% of their budget. Thus they could afford to pay bureaucrats to sit in empty buildings for years and do nothing productive whatsoever, “just like the federal department of education.”

The former governor and I encountered a point of substantial disagreement regarding legislation in New Mexico that would have prevented smoking in restaurants. According to his account, he was initially totally against the idea of such legislation on free market principles, believing that customers were fully capable of making their own decisions about whether they wanted to eat in a smoking environment or not. However, he explained that as he mulled the issue over more, he realized that the employees of the restaurant would also be exposed to the smoke, and it might be significantly more difficult for them to quit their jobs than for customers to simply not go out to eat. Ultimately, he said, he remained conflicted on the issue, and never actually had to make the decision to sign such legislation, but still cited workplace safety as an example of a case where he was not ideologically a libertarian.

I countered him by noting that workplace safety can be taken to arbitrary extremes, as there is always a function that describes the value returned by investing in increased safety compared to the value of the initial investment. We could mandate a zero percent risk of contracting health problems associated with work, and then of course it would simply be illegal to work. Somewhere along that infinite spectrum from immediate death to everlasting life is a totally arbitrary cut-off point which the government deems acceptable. I cited my own personal experience working with IBM. As I said to the former governor, “There’s a person whose job it is to take out my trash. I wish they didn’t do that. I wish I would take out my own trash and get a bigger paycheck.”

Mr. Johnson agreed with me that there is not a clear, objective reason for declaring a certain level of workplace safety appropriate, and furthermore displayed a real understanding of economics by agreeing that workplace safety regulations do, in fact, cut into workers’ paychecks. Nevertheless, he still said that he was divided on the issue of smoking bans.


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I will buy a billboard for Ron Paul

August 13, 2010 3 comments

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It’s simple, really. Ron Paul philosophically opposes the expanding American empire because it is killing our troops, wasting our taxpayer money, and destroying our reputation around the world. He knew that Barack Obama lied about wanting to end the war in Iraq and gave America an opportunity for a fundamentally different foreign policy.

Ron Paul knows that the War on Drugs is constitutionally unauthorized, morally obscene, and pragmatically a complete failure, and that is why he completely opposes all drug legislation and has voted against it every time.

Ron Paul also understands that the Federal Reserve has caused the boom and bust cycle and must be stopped so that the market can heal before the middle class is wiped out entirely. He stood staunchly against the Obamacare bill and was one of the few Congressmen who demonstrated philosophical justification for his belief that the market, not the government, could provide people with healthcare most effectively. He knows that Barack Obama is allied with corporations just as Bush was, and fears that government interference in trade inherently favors monopolies and corporate bullying instead of fair competition and prosperity.

At a time when even the allegedly anti-war Democrats were screaming for more government control, Ron Paul knew that the Department of Homeland Security was dangerous and evil at its outset, not years later when it was exposed for the damage that it has caused. In fact, Ron Paul was one of the very few Congressmen who attacked the PATRIOT Act upon its inception.

Ron Paul knows that the United States Constitution is the best defense of freedom that has ever been implemented in recorded history. He has always performed his Congressional duties with absolute respect for the Constitution and is one of the last remaining Congressmen who still believe that the Constitution was meant to radically limit the power of government to interfere in people’s lives.

Ron Paul predicted and understood the financial collapse years before it occurred and tried his best to prevent it, but was overwhelmed by a huge majority in Congress who favored more government control and blindness to economic realities over freedom and sensible policies. For many years he has been telling this country that the federal banks and their lobbying potential are dangerous and destructive to the economy and the freedoms of the American people. He stands alone as a stalwart voice of reason and liberty in a sea of Orwellian anti-humanism on Capitol Hill.

It is for this reason that I am proud to announce my personal commitment.

If Ron Paul runs in 2012, I will buy a billboard out of pocket.

I am, of course, willing to accept help. If you are interested in making a donation when the time comes, subscribe to my blog by clicking on the button in the upper right, or reply below. If you plan to donate or, even better, if you plan to buy your own billboard, feel free to save this image and upload it as your profile picture on Facebook. The more visibility this image gets, the more hope we have for America.


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Symbols of Freedom: Gadsden flag, circled “V” on Facebook, and more

August 12, 2010 15 comments

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A topic that comes up quite frequently in discussion of libertarianism, market anarchism, and other pro-freedom circles is the symbolism associated with the movement against socialism, tyranny, and government as a concept. What kinds of symbols do libertarians use? Where do they come from? How do I get that “V” in a circle on my Facebook page? These are all legitimate – and important – questions. To help shed some light, I’ve compiled a number of popular symbols of freedom on this blog and explained their origin, meaning, and use today. I will not focus so much on the classical depictions of liberty such as the cuneiform amagi or the lady Liberty herself but rather on the more recent images and characters which circulate the internet today, such as the gadsden flag, the circle v, etc.

The Gadsden Flag


What is its significance?

This flag has a rich history dating all the way back to Benjamin Franklin who in 1751 suggested the symbol of the rattlesnake to represent American resistance against the British crown. Franklin was explicit in his revolutionary beliefs long before revolution itself seemed a realistic possibility, and chose the rattlesnake for the contrast between its generally non-aggressive nature and its ability to be extremely, violently forceful when stepped upon. When the myriad personal and trading vessels that formed much of the U.S. navy began intercepting British warships, they flew a flag designed by Colonel Gadsden which depicted a rattlesnake and the words “DONT TREAD ON ME” to indicate their defiance of government control. This formed the basis for the modern day Gadsden flag which has seen huge popularity during the Tea Party protests of the late Bush administration and the Obama administration. It is in some sense a patriotic symbol by association with the the American revolution, but it also serves as an alternative for the many Tea Partiers who refuse to fly the Stars and Stripes for the appeasement of tyrants.

Should I use it?

Probably so! In terms of recognition and historical significance, nothing beats the Gadsden flag. By choosing to fly an American flag which is not, and has never been, a flag of any government, nor ever been used as a symbol of conquest and imperialism, you can send a clear message that you are not proud to be ruled by an institution of regulation, control, and abuse. The only negative to flying this flag is that, due to its extreme popularity, not everyone who has adopted it is actually consistent with the original message behind the flag. It is at its core a symbol of defense and defense alone.

What are some uses and variations?

The Gadsden flag’s primary use is as a physical flag displayed at Tea Party protests. It has also become very popular as a Facebook profile picture and a bumper sticker. It is frequently combined with the conventional anarcho-capitalist flag to produce the Gadsden anarchist flag. One of the most interesting variations I’ve seen is the three-dimensional Gadsden flag. Finally, there are an increasing number of tattoos depicting just the rattlesnake and the words “DONT TREAD ON ME.”

The Anarcho-Capitalist Flag


What is its significance?

This flag is really quite simple. All of the anarchist flags are split diagonally, black on one half and another color on the other. This descends from the pure black flag of anarchy – since black is the absence of any color, it follows that a black flag represents the absence of any government. Gold is the color of anarcho-capitalism as a symbol of the prosperity which invariably results when governments do not interfere with the voluntary exchange of goods. Due to its simple elegance and very well-defined message, the anarcho-capitalist flag is extremely popular.

Should I use it?

Definitely. This symbol is free of any ambiguity, as it has never been understood to represent anything other than total non-consent to all government control and an absolute respect for the rights of individuals to retain or trade their private property at will. However, there is one drawback. It lacks somewhat in recognition due to the fact that there are no out-of-the-closet anarchists in high public office or on mainstream networks.

What are some uses and variations?

It’s not too common to see this flag actually printed and flown, because anarchists typically do not see a need to fly flags. However, the image has been very popular on the internet as a base for all kinds of creative expansion. It’s so very simple, each anarchist wants to add an idea or message that he or she feels needs to be declared.

V for Vendetta


What is its significance?

Perhaps one of the most hotly-contested anarchist symbols, the circled “V” drawn in blood red against a black backdrop originates from the 1980’s series of comic books V for Vendetta. The symbol became wildly popular shortly after the release of the 2006 film by the same name. In both, the protagonist identifies by the name “V” and draws the circled letter to represent his anarchist cause in resistance against a fascist state. However, the message carried by V goes beyond one of vindication and as far as vindictiveness. He is frequently depicted using aggressive force against people who seem at most incidentally related to the fascist regime, especially in the movie. Nonetheless, V does express regret for the collateral damage he causes and states that he believed it to be necessary to achieve a freer society.

Should I use it?

That depends on how revolutionary you are. If you are a pure voluntaryist who objects on moral grounds to all aggressive force, you probably should not use this symbol, because the “Vendetta” part of “V for Vendetta” clearly refers to a violent revolution with collateral damage. On the other hand, if you see freeing society from its tyrannical government to be a paramount goal towards which all feasible methods must be employed, this may be the best symbol for you. It certainly does have very high recognition and an umbrella of coverage due to including both anarcho-capitalists anarcho-socialists.

What are some uses and variations?

The circled “V” is sometimes drawn on protest signs along with the anarchist clenched fist to stand out from a crowd as opposing both “sides” of a political issue. The Guy Fawkes mask worn by V is also popular to wear to protests because it protects the identity of the anarchist. This, however, can lead to police becoming agitated for no good reason.

V for Voluntary


What is its significance?

This image was created just a few short years ago by a passionate libertarian after the “V for Vendetta” film was released, and it has taken off like a rocket. Its success can be attributed to the elaborate amount of thought and attention to detail in what appears at first to be a remarkably simple design. The “V” is split into half gold and half black with the anarcho-capitalist flag in mind. However, instead of simply depicting a split or divison as both the letter “V” and the anarcho-capitalist flag do, V for Voluntary actually joins back together at the top to complete a circle, representing the unity and cohesion that follows from a non-violent society. Most impressively, the joining of prosperity with anarchy is actually a handshake – the gold side folds over the black side as two hands gripping one another, which draws attention to the literal contract theory of a capitalist society and also to the brotherly harmony of voluntaryist thought. Thus the ultimate message conveyed by V for Voluntary is “In freedom, people become united and prosperous.”

Should I use it?

I can’t think of any good reason not to. It does not have extremely widespread recognition due to having been created just a few years ago, but voluntarism is a growing philosophy and you can help it along.

What are some uses and variations?

Profile pictures! Probably the best way to help others understand the message of freedom is to utilize social networking, both in the literal sense of sharing content with friends and also by highlighting similarities between libertarian thought and people’s personal views. Voluntarism is the perfect path for this because the right to make choices without being forcibly controlled is valued by many people who are not politically active. The purity of this message also makes V for Voluntary tattoos a good choice for the long run.

Circled “V” and circled “A” characters


What is its significance?

This topic amuses me because it draws the plurality of all searches to my blog. The presence of circled “V” and circled “A” on Facebook names recently has caused quite a stir. They are gaining rapid popularity as more and more young people have come to realize that the government cannot be trusted to give them happy lives. The “V” stands for “voluntary” and the “A” for anarchy, with all the usual implications of those words.

Should I use it?

As long as you are comfortable sharing your political views on Facebook, go for it. It will probably get some attention from your friends and will allow other freedom advocates to identify you on community pages. You may get some random friend requests from people you don’t know who also bear the symbols, but that can be fun and informative.

How do I get the circled “V” or circled “A” on my Facebook page?

These characters are Unicode 9398 and 9419. In case you don’t know what that means, just copy and paste them from here: Ⓥ Ⓐ

From your Facebook home page, click on “Account” and select “Account Settings.” Find where it says “Name” and click “change.” Add the character of your choice to the end of your name and click “Change Name.” Voila! You are now a certified freedom advocate.

So which ones do you use?

I use the Gadsden flag and the circled “V” symbol on Facebook. I haven’t found anything creative to do with any of the others yet, but I may eventually get a V for Voluntary tattoo when I have way too much time and money.


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Missouri Referendum Nullifies Obama’s Healthcare Bill

August 4, 2010 3 comments

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Last night, a critical referendum, Proposition C, passed by an overwhelming majority in Missouri. According to two initial reports (here and here), the proposition passed with more than 71 percent of the voters in favor.

By passing this proposition, which nullifies and overturns the unconstitutional health insurance mandate signed by president Barack Obama earlier this year, Missouri joins Louisiana, Virginia, Idaho, and Utah as the fifth state to fully nullify the mandate. Four of these states are controlled by a Republican majority; Louisiana is the outlier with a strong Democratic majority. More information can be found at the Tenth Amendment Center.


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Gadsden and Anarcho-Capitalist Flag with Circle V Symbol

August 1, 2010 2 comments

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I am renouncing all rights to this image of the Gadsden flag mixed with the Anarcho-Capitalist flag and featuring the Circle V symbol, so please use it to spread the message of freedom. Click the image to view the full-size version.


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