A few nights ago, my 8-year-old woke up in the middle of the night screaming, “No, don’t kill him! You’re hurting my brother! Don’t kill him.” How can I ever make that go away? I used to tell my kids that if they were ever in trouble, they should go to the police for help. Now my kids don’t want to go to sleep at night because they’re afraid the cops will kill them or their family. It’s time to remind the cops that they should be serving and protecting our neighborhoods, not waging war on the people in them.
Today is liberalism day. A day where “classical liberals” seek to take back the moniker that was lost to them over the 20th century in an attempt to avoid confusion and to help drive home the ideological difference between modern liberals (who support a strong central government for the purposes of wealth redistribution and social control) and classical liberals such as Bastiat, Locke, and Ludwig von Mises (who advocated for little to no government tyranny and emphasized the rights of the individual over that of “society”).
In my personal experience however there is a far more dangerous muddling of ideology at the core of the libertarian movement. That is to say “when should libertarians betray their own values?” Since I was exposed to the ideas of Mises, Rothbard, Hayek and their intellectual proteges Hoppe, Block, Woods, DiLorenzo, Kinsella, Murphy, Ron and Rand Paul, and so many others I have found that there is a disconnect between the values advocated by these authors and the actions taken by them and their followers. This has often resulted in so called libertarians using remarkably non-libertarian tactics to pursue libertarian goals. First let me describe one of these events from my own personal experience and then I will discuss what I think can be done to help the libertarian movement as a whole.
I was introduced to libertarianism by a friend sometime in late 2008 but it wasn’t until the 2010 Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) that I met other libertarians “out in the wild”. I was still ideologically agnostic at the time but leaned towards a more leftist (not liberal) philosophy. I had voted for Obama in 2008 in my naïve belief that “anybody but Bush” was a valid political stance and I had supported the move towards National Healthcare; but over the next few months I was argued into holding a grudging respect for libertarian beliefs and by the time we boarded the train for D.C. I had read most of Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom and listened to a single Thomas DiLorenzo lecture through one half of a pair of headphones but was paying more attention to the other end of those headphones than the lecture droning into my ear.
So as I was walking into the Marriott or Hilton or whatnot I felt less like a fish out of water and more like a lobster in a pot and hearing a page over the loudspeaker for Dick Cheney raised the temperature ever closer to boiling. My compatriot barked a laugh at me when I turned and asked if she realized how dirty I felt being the same building as a war criminal. I was assured that I didn’t need to worry since we wouldn’t be anywhere near the neo-conservatives and would instead be linking up with some friends of hers at the Campaign for Liberty booth. A few awkward greetings later we were directed to a table, given badges with names of people neither of us had ever met, and told to vote in the Straw Poll for Ron Paul and to “do everything we could to not let the badges get punched” which signified that I.D. had been used and was ineligible for further voting. I, always good at following directions, managed with some small sleight of hand to vote and preserve the integrity of the badge, my friend was less subtle and some libertarian woman who was late to the party arrived later that day to find her I.D. already punched and her Straw Poll vote already cast. This small act of fraud was our payment for access to the speeches and Question and Answer later that day.
The speeches were interesting but uneventful. Thomas DiLorenzo on Abraham Lincoln (who else), Thomas Woods plugging one of his books. Rollback, I think, but at this point I own them all and can’t quite distinguish in my memory which one he released that year. The “Southern Avenger” Jack Hunter talked about something that completely escapes my memory though we were seated directly behind him before he went up and my friend’s cellphone going off directly in his ear is one of my fondest memories.
Then we were off to the Q&A featuring Ron Paul, Judge Napolitano with Tom Woods as moderator. At this point I feel the need to point out that throughout the day my friend and I were drinking out of 1 Liter Pepsi bottles that were approximately half Pepsi and half vodka. So at this point her cheeks were more red than Limbaugh’s cheeks and all fear I had of being outed as a “liberal pinko” was removed. In fact I was feeling bold. So as the Q&A reached its midpoint and my friend asked the air “I wonder if Tom Woods is an Anarcho-Capitalist?” I found myself stand up in this room of “right wing nutters” and insert myself into the line of people queued up waiting to ask questions.
Now anyone who enjoys the occasional overindulgence of hops and gets themselves into precarious situations knows the feeling I had at that moment. “Now what am I going to do?” I was in a hall with probably three to four hundred people, a television personality and a United States Congressman on stage in front of me while on camera and I was going to ask the MODERATOR if he had fringe political beliefs that I didn’t really know anything about.
The line in front of me grew shorter and shorter and I swear my blood pressure had to have rose a dozen digits and as I reached the front of the line I stuttered through some thanks to both Ron Paul and Napolitano before turning my gaze onto Woods and requesting his permission to ask him a question instead. At this point I knew I had broken about a dozen rules of etiquette as he mentioned that he would be available after the Q&A and noticeably stepped away from Ron Paul before agreeing to my request. I was in too deep at this point. “Mr. Woods.” I paused still figuring out my phrasing. “Do you think that a Minarchist society could lead to an Anarcho-Capitalist one?” His answer was everything I could have hoped for: “Of course, or else I wouldn’t be pursuing it.” Elated, I returned to my seat and gloated to my friend.
When we returned home I immediately looked for the video on the Campaign for Liberty website. Finding the video was easy enough but for whatever reason my question, and my question alone, was edited out. My only assumption was that it didn’t convey the “party line” that Campaign for Liberty wanted to convey. To me it felt as if I, a pseudo-democrat, was too radical for this so called party of change.
Now I didn’t think about this trip for several years but as I refined my beliefs and found the Rothbardian ideology that I now how hold dear I realized what a betrayal of libertarian beliefs my experience represented. The folks running the Campaign for Liberty booth openly and actively committed fraud in exchange for both personal and political favors while the Campaign for Liberty site runners were actively suppressing the logical conclusion of their belief system in an attempt to pander to the average voter. This was the beginning of my distrust of utilitarianism and of the political wing of the libertarian movement and that distrust has not subsided in the intervening years.
But if not politics then what can we do? I favor a two-pronged approach. The first is obvious: Education. We need to talk about libertarianism as much as possible and that is why I love this blog despite not being able to muster the time to post very often. I personally cannot stand to debate on the internet but some of the comments here and many of the posters make amazing headway into what it means to be a libertarian.
The second is more complex and much more personal. I call it practical (or passive) libertarianism. It is essentially finding it in yourself to embody the ideals of libertarian thought each and every day. Terry Amburgey says that I like to “Quote Scripture” and while he means it in a mocking way it is true that I do look to the writings of Mises and Rothbard for moral guidance. I believe that libertarianism has concrete ethics that help describe what is “right” and what is “wrong” in the world of morality and I make every attempt to live strictly by them.
What does this mean? Well for me it means following the Non-Aggression principle on a daily basis. In other words not committing aggression on persons or property. It means taking personal responsibility for my actions and not attributing blame to society or other abstract groups. It means not doing the obvious things such as stealing or littering but it also means making every attempt to keep money out of the government’s hands and in the hands of individuals by abstaining from buying superfluous goods whose proceeds go directly into the state coffers. This entails not playing the lottery (a bad idea anyway), and by trying to avoid purchasing things with heavy excise taxes.
Does this mean I live like a hermit? Of course not. I have to drive so I am forced into paying the heavy New York State gas tax. I purchase consumer goods as I see fit since sales tax is unavoidable. I am gainfully employed so the Income Tax is removed for me. But I do what I can. I try to minimize the government’s impact on my life. To quote pseudo-libertarian science fiction author Robert Heinlein”
“I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
I suggest you do the same.
So much for due process? Or unreasonable search and siezure…
That’s right, not only do police have the legal authority (thanks positivists!) to search a vehicle with absolutely no cause whatsoever but you can be arrested and charged for the simple act of having “secret compartments” in your vehicle. I will leave it up to you to decide if this power will be abused or not.
I don’t have time to comment a ton on this (Life has just been absurd lately) but wanted to make sure more people saw this.
The guys over at Zerohedge noticed a surprising sight on google maps in the city of Sheerness, United Kingdom. West coast, below the River Thames and next to River Medway. Left of A249, Brielle Way. A car lot full of unsold, brand new cars. Zerohedge claims these are all new cars that cannot fit on overcapacity dealer lots. If true this would be a prime example of malinvestment spurred on by government bailout and subsidies. Quite literally a textbook case of the Austrian Business Cycle.
Further research is needed since I do not know whether these lots are standard practice or a new feature of our post-2008 crash world. It is possible that these are merely staging grounds for cars before they ship to dealers but at first glance I tend to agree with Zerohedge’s conclusion that “There is proof that the worlds recession is still biting and wont let go. All around the world there are huge stockpiles of unsold cars and they are being added to every day. They have run out of space to park all of these brand new unsold cars and are having to buy acres and acres of land to store them.”
Something to keep an eye on regardless.
In preparation for something special that I will finally complete this week (Rothbard willing) lets talk about this editorial from the New York Times.
The article starts accurately enough explaining the US government’s monopoly power of ideas saying:
The Constitution gives Congress the power to grant inventors a temporary monopoly over their creations to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.”
I am actually shocked at the strong language used here, the four letter word “monopoly” is rarely used in reference to any government service. At least in polite company. I would also like to point out the subjective language quoted from the constitution. “Useful arts”. Useful to whom? To the inventor? To consumers? To the government? To humanity? Like most state activities the ability to decide what is “useful” is left to bureaucrats in service to the government rather than in the free market where useful services will generate profits and those that generate disuse (or disutility) are met with losses. Back to the article though:
“But in recent years, the government has too often given patent protection to inventions that do not represent real scientific advances.”
No argument there. The “copyright troll” phenomenon is more than enough to make this libertarian squeamish. Where is this editorial going I wonder?
“The issue in this case, Alice Corporation Pty. v. CLS Bank International, is whether using a computer to implement a well-established economic concept can be patented. The court should rule that such ideas are not eligible for patent protection.
Alice Corporation obtained four American patents that cover a method of settling trades between investors in currency and other financial markets. The approach depends on a neutral middleman to make sure traders complete the transactions they have agreed to. The corporation, which is based in Australia, has accused CLS Bank, a London-based company that settles foreign exchange trades for investors around the world, of infringing its patents.”
To make a long story short the US patent office granted the Alice Corporation a copyright on a form of interaction between a buyer, a middleman and a seller. An absurd concept to be sure. Now the question is what does the editorial suggest?
“The Supreme Court should make clear that nobody should be allowed to claim a monopoly over an abstract idea simply by tying it to a computer.”
I agree; but why stop there? Why the artificial endpoint of “abstract ideas tied to a computer”? If we shouldn’t allow patents on abstract ideas what would the author suggest if we proved that all ideas are necessarily abstract and therefore not able to be owned, sold, or monopolized? Would he follow his logic to the conclusion that perhaps all patents are invalid?
Yesterday the company that specializes in remote file sharing announced that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is now on their board of directors. This is troubling news for a number of reasons. The first, more pedantic reason, is simply that she played no small role in the deaths of several hundred thousand people throughout the middle east as well as the unnecessary deaths of thousands of US soldiers. More practically though she was a member of the presidency that pushed the PATRIOT Act and is now working intimately with a company that has access to millions of personal files.
For those of you who do not know the dropbox software essentially allows you to put files in a folder on your PC where they are synced to the “cloud”. You, or anyone else, are then free to download those files from anywhere in the world as long as you know the link to said file. It is a handy way to transfer files that may be too large for an E-Mail attachment or that you simply do not trust google having access to. From this point forward I would question the security of any file transferred with dropbox.
Oh and by the way. Snowden documents from last year state “that it is planning to add Dropbox as a PRISM provider.”
PRISM, of course, being an NSA program “which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats,”
How many more “coincidences” that just happen to violate rights, privacy, security and safety are we going to sweep under the rug?
Australia has been in the news quite often in the last year for its new Prime Minister’s controversial legislation that protest groups say put vast areas of Australian nature in threat of destruction. Environmental issues are one of the more complex issues facing libertarians today. The vast entanglement of property rights can make explaining those issues to non-libertarians quickly and clearly quite difficult. Luckily for me the Australian government is currently attempting to assault a far more basic set of rights. The right to organize, the right to persuade, and the right to spend your money and time how you wish. We are, as the title implies discussing the right to organize a boycott of a product or products.
The Australian secretary of agriculture Richard Colbeck wants to “remove an exemption for environmental groups from the consumer law ban on so-called “secondary boycotts”. These secondary boycotts are also illegal in the UK and the United States. For clarification a secondary action “is industrial action by a trade union in support of a strike initiated by workers in another, separate enterprise”.
Libertarians often find themselves on the wrong side of both environmental and union actions but it is important to remember that liberty also means the freedom to refuse to purchase a product for any reason you can imagine; whether it is because the company that makes the product is partaking in actions you disagree with or because their logo is yellow.
Even though libertarians disagree with the end goals of the hard-line environmentalist movements (namely government control of industry) we cannot forget to support situations like this on principle and also to remember that environmental issues are essentially property rights issues and thus core to libertarian ethics.
“Around 79 percent of the nonviolent life sentences without parole are drug-related, according to the ACLU, and around 20 percent are for property crimes. The remaining 1 percent are for traffic and other infractions in Alabama and Florida”
This seems like as good an opportunity as any to talk about libertarian law. First of all, to the libertarian, there is no such thing as non-violent or “victimless” crime. There can be no “crime against the state” or “crime against society” since there would be no state and “society” is an abstract concept that cannot be a victim. Crime can only occur when there is a clear perpetrator and a clear victim.
This is the logic used to deduce that there can be no punishment for consuming or selling drugs for example.
Second, libertarian punishment is confined to the concept of “proportionality”. Proportionality is described by Murray Rothbard as:
“…the criminal, or invader, loses his own right to the extent that he has deprived another man of his. If a man deprives another man of some of his self-ownership or its extension in physical property, to that extent does he lose his own rights. From this principle immediately derives the proportionality theory of punishment-best summed up in the old adage: “let the punishment fit the crime.””
Walter Block famously expanded on this concept with his “Two Teeth for a Tooth” rule saying:
“In encapsulated form, it calls for two teeth for a tooth, plus costs of capture and a
premium for scaring. How does this work?
Suppose I steal a TV set from you. Surely, the first thing that should occur when I am captured is that I be forced to return to you my ill-gotten gains.
So, based on the first of two “teeth,” I must return this appliance to you.
But this is hardly enough. Merely returning the TV to you its rightful owner is certainly no punishment to me the criminal.
All I have been forced to do is not give up my
own TV to you, but to return yours to you.
Thus enters the second tooth: what I did (tried to do) to you should instead be done to me. I took your TV set;
therefore, as punishment, you should be able to get mine (or some monetary equivalent). This is the second tooth.2″
The claim is often made that a libertarian society would be less just for the poor and disadvantaged but take this list of crimes that caused human beings to be sent to prison for the rest of their lives and compare it to the logical corresponding punishment called for by the proportionality rule and tell me which is more just.
“Among the most obscure offenses – mostly from Louisiana and Mississippi – documented in the report as the impetus for life sentences:
- Possessing stolen wrenches
- Siphoning gasoline from a truck
- Shoplifting a computer from WalMart
- Shoplifting three belts from a department store
- Shoplifting digital cameras from WalMart
- Shoplifting two jerseys from an athletics store
- Breaking into a parked car and stealing a bag containing a woman’s lunch
- Stealing a 16-year-old car’s radio
- Drunkenly threatening a police officer while handcuffed in a patrol car”
User “Three_Letter_Agency” put the current NSA issue in very clear focus today with the following:
We know the NSA and their UK buddy GHCQ can:
- Collect the domestic meta-data of both parties in a phone-call. Source
- Set up fake internet cafes to steal data. Source
- Has intercepted the phone calls of at least 35 world leaders, including allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Source
- Can tap into the underwater fiber-optic cables that carry a majority of the world’s internet traffic. Source
- Tracks communications within media institutions such as Al Jazeera. Source
- Has ‘bugged’ the United Nations headquarters. Source
- Has set up a financial database to track international banking and credit card transactions. Source
- Collects and stores over 200 million domestic and foreign text messages each day. Source
- Collects and has real-time access to browsing history, email, and social media activity. To gain access, an analyst simply needs to fill out an on-screen form with a broad justification for the search that is not reviewed by any court or NSA personnel. Source
“I, sitting at my desk, could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”. – Edward Snowden
- Creates maps of the social networks of United States citizens. Source
- Has access to smartphone app data. Source
- Uses spies in embassies to collect data, often by setting up ‘listening stations’ on the roofs of buildings.Source
- Uses fake LinkedIn profiles and other doctored web pages to secretly install surveillance software in unwitting companies and individuals. Source
- Tracks reservations at upscale hotels. Source
- Has intercepted the talking-points of world leaders before meetings with Barack Obama. Source
- Can crack encryption codes on cellphones. Source
- Has implanted software on over 100,000 computers worldwide allowing them to hack data without internet connection, using radio waves. Source
- Has access to computers through fake wireless connections. Source
- Monitors communications in online games such as World of Warcraft. Source
- Intercepts shipping deliveries and install back-door devices allowing access. Source
- Has direct access to the data centers of Google, Yahoo and other major companies. Source
- Covertly and overtly infiltrate United States and foreign IT industries to weaken or gain access to encryption, often by collaborating with software companies and internet service providers themselves. They are also, according to an internal document, “responsible for identifying, recruiting and running covert agents in the global telecommunications industry.” Source
- The use of “honey traps”, luring targets into compromising positions using sex. Source
- The sharing of raw intelligence data with Israel. Only official U.S. communications are affected, and there are no legal limits on the use of the data from Israel. Source
- Spies on porn habits of activists to discredit them. Source
Possibly the most shocking revelation was made on February 24, 2014. Internal documents show that the security state is attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with “extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction.” The documents revealed a top-secret unit known as the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Unit, or JTRIG. Two of the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in an effort to discredit a target, and to use social sciences such as psychology to manipulate online discourse and activism in order to generate a desirable outcome. The unit posts false information on the internet and falsely attributes it to someone else, pretend to be a ‘victim’ of a target they want to discredit, and posts negative information on various forums. In some instances, to discredit a target, JTRIG sends out ‘false flag’ emails to family and friends.
Read the whole JTRIG presentation by Greenwald, just do it. Here
Now, consider the words of former NSA employee turned whistleblower Russ Tice:
“Okay. They went after–and I know this because I had my hands literally on the paperwork for these sort of things–they went after high-ranking military officers; they went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees and some of the–and judicial.
But they went after other ones, too. They went after lawyers and law firms. All kinds of–heaps of lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court that I had his wiretap information in my hand. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials.
They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House–their own people. They went after antiwar groups. They went after U.S. international–U.S. companies that that do international business, you know, business around the world. They went after U.S. banking firms and financial firms that do international business. They went after NGOs that–like the Red Cross, people like that that go overseas and do humanitarian work. They went after a few antiwar civil rights groups.
So, you know, don’t tell me that there’s no abuse, because I’ve had this stuff in my hand and looked at it. And in some cases, I literally was involved in the technology that was going after this stuff. And you know, when I said to [former MSNBC show host Keith] Olbermann, I said, my particular thing is high tech and you know, what’s going on is the other thing, which is the dragnet. The dragnet is what Mark Klein is talking about, the terrestrial dragnet. Well my specialty is outer space. I deal with satellites, and everything that goes in and out of space. I did my spying via space. So that’s how I found out about this… And remember we talked about that before, that I was worried that the intelligence community now has sway over what is going on.
Now here’s the big one. I haven’t given you any names. This was is summer of 2004. One of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with, with a 40-something-year-old wannabe senator from Illinois. You wouldn’t happen to know where that guy lives right now, would you? It’s a big white house in Washington, DC. That’s who they went after. And that’s the president of the United States now.” Russ Tice, NSA Whistleblower
The historically great city-state of Venice is contemplating independence from Italy. “Over two million residents,” nearly half of the total population, “of the Veneto region took part in the week-long survey, with 89 percent voting in favour of independence from Italy.” The Indipendenza Veneta party believes that the centralized Italian government is unable “to stamp out corruption, protect its citizens from a damaging recession and plug waste in the poorer south.” Venice joins Catalonia and, for better or worse, Crimea this year in considering breaking away from it’s central government. Catalonia’s request for an independence referendum denied by the Spanish prime minister while we all know how long Crimean independence lasted. All is not lost however.
These types of referendum must be celebrated by libertarians throughout the world. The further decentralization of governments is a goal that can directly lead to a freer, more libertarian society and will serve as a siphon weakening governments worldwide. To quote, as I do so often, the great Murray Rothbard:
“Once one concedes that a single world government is not necessary, then where does one logically stop at the permissibility of separate states? If Canada and the United States can be separate nations without being denounced as in a state of impermissible ‘anarchy’, why may not the South secede from the United States? New York State from the Union? New York City from the state? Why may not Manhattan secede? Each neighbourhood? Each block? Each house? Each person?”
Why not indeed.
Youtube video Located Here.
For those of you who don’t know Harrison Bergeron is a fantastic short story by Kurt Vonnegut, an author near and dear to most upstate New Yorkers. How many other authors set anything in the city of Schenectady? The general plot of the story is a description of a world where everyone has been made equal, both physically and mentally, by the “Handicapper General” of the United States. Full text available here.