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How free was the United States in the GIlded age?

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Eugene posted on Tue, Nov 27 2012 2:33 PM

There were some taxes obviously, but quite little (even including the relatively high tariffs). Blacks and women probably didn't have full rights (though I am not sure about that since much of it involves the use of public property anyway).

There were some anti free speech laws. I think you couldn't sue polluters. Strikes were sometimes forbidden. There were some labor laws. 

What other stuff?

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Hans Hoppe.

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Eugene - you hit on some pretty good points. Remember, too, that there was plenty of favoritism of companies by government. The railroads are an example of this. So was the Pure Food and Drug Act.

As to freedom for black people - the Jim Crow laws were almost the same thing as slavery. They were actively used to prevent people from integrating, such as on trains (which, through the market, had decided that it costs too much to segregate people).

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In that HHH lecture, he says that private spending was 15 times government spending? What is that figure now? I know govt. spending for 2012 is 6 trillion so far, but what is private spending?

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If you trust gdp as a measurement of total spending then it's about 9 trillion.

Edit

Also, I love that what Hoppe was describing was a liberal's nightmare and a libertarian's wet dream

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Jargon replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 5:36 PM

Subsidization of railroad construction through massive land giveaways and public credit, tariffs, patents, cartelized banking via the National Banking Act, contracts to industrialists with the Civil War, Greenback creation from '61-'72, creation of property not through homesteading but through government surveying and then auctioning off in chunks to industrialists, National Parks (decreased the supply of land!), Interstate Commerce Commission which favored railroads and subsequently shippers but always hurt consumers.

Not quite laissez faire. Though there were not federal regulations, there were still federal interventions. There were also state regulations. People say that it was laissez faire just because there were no federal regulations. Companies could still buy out politicians, but it's just not that well documented beyond the already significant federal interventions mentioned above.

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It's telling that the term 'the Gilded Age' itself comes from a novel about rent-seeking and political corruption.

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Jargon replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 10:57 PM

If you employed a Hoppean analysis, you might say that the state was violating people's rights to allow immigrants in, easing the 'labor shortage' in factories which Industrialists were always whinging about.

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Neodoxy replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 11:02 PM

^

Do you really think that's not an exaggeration? What part of his "analysis" are you using?

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Answered (Not Verified) Jargon replied on Wed, Nov 28 2012 11:11 PM
Suggested by Jon Irenicus

Using the thesis put forward in Hoppe's Natural Order, the State, and the Immigration Problem, which goes thusly:

Under the natural order, all property is privately owned and the right of exclusion is thereby reserved. Under the state, some property is privately owned but some is publicly owned such as roads and hospitals. In the natural order, private owners could discriminate between those that they permitted the usage of their roads and facilities. Under the state, taxes are used to fund facilities, in which the rightful owners (the taxpayers) are disabled from employing their right of exclusion as property holders. In the natural order, if the people so desired, they could exclude groups of people from coming in to live with them

He goes on to qualify that, if business owners wanted to make their own roads and communities with which to house immigrants that would be fine and did occasionally occur in the old America, but under the state immigration is a forced integration in the interests of employers, against the interests of the native employees.

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We can surmise that it was definitely better than what we have now. The Articles were constructed to neuter big government; that's why the federalists met in secret and prompted a vote for a new constitution, the one we have today.

 

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shazam replied on Sun, Dec 9 2012 12:34 AM

Couldn't one just as easily allege that a closed border policy would be force exclusion? In essence, isn't a libertarian immigration policy impossible for publicly owned property?

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I think that's a good point. Neither of the Immigration policies of openness or closedness adhere perfectly to libertarian ethics, because exclusion/inclusion is collectivized. I do think, however, that most if not many of the people living on the border today would opt for exclusion.

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RothbardsDisciple:

In that HHH lecture, he says that private spending was 15 times government spending? What is that figure now? I know govt. spending for 2012 is 6 trillion so far, but what is private spending?

Gov spending at all levels: ~6 trillion. US GDP 2011 ~16 trilion. So, private spending now is a bit less than three times gov spending :\

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I don't think that's a valid conclusion, Anenome.

GDP = C + I + G + NX = 15 trillion 

G = 40% of GDP = 6 trillion

Private spending = GDP - G = 9 trillion

So private spending is 9 trillion, while government spending is 6 trillion. Private spending is only 1.5x government spending.

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