In section XV of his magnum opus, Human Action, Ludwig von Mises explored the progressive trend of altering the meaning of words. Mises was specifically discussing the terms “freedom” and “liberty”, but the phenomenon he termed a “semantic revolution” has lost little steam since his day. Where it started is anyone’s guess, but today’s progressive community exhibits a creativity made possible through steadily increasing leisure time.
One of the tenants of libertarian thought is adherence to the “non-aggression principle.” The term “aggression” has been historically understood to mean physical violence against person or property. Sadly, aggression in the progressive mind has warped into any number of social slights, generous interpretation of perceived intention, or outright misrepresentation. With such an open ended definition, true aggression loses its meaning.
Similarly, the term science has morphed into a tool for agenda justification. The scientific method has a fairly well defined historical interpretation, yet challenges to ideological dogma through scientific research and data are summarily swept away. Genders are somehow now fluid and ever increasing while stalled temperature increases are no challenge to climate models predicting imminent destruction.
The phenomenon is hardly surprising. To a gullible, uninformed, and generally indifferent populous, such semantic changes allow for adoption of an ideology bereft of actual substance. As people become aware of the failures of progressivism, it can be re-branded to something with more acceptance, like liberalism.
I am often surprised when I hear people who claim to be proponents of liberty assert what things must be done, believed in, agreed upon, or followed. From what I can tell, the philosophy hinges only on those things we must not do, such as initiate force or violate private property. However, we are frequently informed by those within the liberty community that there is but one way to see a given issue.
Religion is a prime example. Many anarchists and libertarians are steadfast in their atheism, even to the point of dismissing anyone within the community willing to express religious beliefs. Being an atheist myself, I see no reason to challenge the spiritual beliefs of others; anyone claiming certainty in this area is likely deluding themselves. In fact, one’s religious beliefs cannot be misconstrued to either initiate force or violate property rights so how they become a point of contention is a mystery to me.
Proponents of liberty have a sufficiently steep hill to climb combating the misinformation, propaganda, and indoctrination ubiquitous in today’s society without fighting among themselves regarding what we “must” do. Natural rights are wholly negative in nature and, therefore, can only be described as things we “must not” do.
The monetarists of the Chicago School have long contended that centrally managed monetary policy is necessary to smooth the business cycle. Since wages are sticky, the argument goes, the money supply needs to perpetually increase to ensure that commodity prices rise along with wages. The supposed stickiness of wages is due to the fact that few would like their wages to fall, regardless of economic circumstances.
In free market capitalism, prices rise and fall with the supply and demand of goods and services. Similarly, wages in a free market would rise and fall with the supply and demand of labor. There is nothing more sticky about wages than there is about the price of any good sold on the market. Since wages don’t require special attention aside from that given any other economic element, it stands to reason that wages cannot justify manipulation of the money supply.
Yes, wages and prices might decline in a market adjusting to over-priced commodities, but that hardly warrants or justifies manipulation of the money supply. If the supply of hot dogs, for example, suddenly jumped, there would be no surprise when the price of hot dogs declined: the value of a commodity tends to diminish when its supply exceeds demand. In the same way, the value of homogeneous labor rises and falls with it’s supply. It is only in an economic environment manipulated by state planning that wages can remain above the market clearing price. As a result, eliminating state intervention would remove the stickiness of wages and, therefore, eliminate the argument that the money supply must be inflated to accommodate economic downturns.