Thursday, March 30, 2006

The "Non-Libertarian FAQ"

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I have taken a long time to examine critically the claims on a statist FAQ. In this entry I want to briefly examine another such FAQ, this time openly anti-libertarian, the "Non-Libertarian FAQ". I will not examine most of the FAQ, since many of these points are corollaries or address specifically American arguments. But I want to look at how Mike Huben defends standard statist lies like the "social contract" or taxation.

(NOTE : if you want to read a longer and more detailed rebuttal of this FAQ, see Some Responses to Mike Huben's A Non-Libertarian FAQ, by anarchist economist David Friedman)

The foremost defenders of our freedoms and rights, which libertarians prefer you overlook, are our governments. National defense, police, courts, registries of deeds, public defenders, (...), etc. all are government efforts that work towards defending freedoms and rights.

Actually, most libertarians would agree with what he's saying here, so I'm not sure what his point is. As the anarchist kind of libertarian, my position is quite otherwise. I see absolutely no reason to accept the ridiculous claim that government has our best interests in mind. True, government does protect our basic rights through the police and the courts, but only because it would lose credibility were it to stop doing so.

Even the police and the courts, like any other government system, still serve a purely utilitarian function : to serve the interests of the ruling class. Only the rich and powerful get "justice".

There are several explicit means by which people make the social contract with government. The commonest is when your parents choose your residency and/or citizenship after your birth. In that case, your parents or guardians are contracting for you, exercising their power of custody. No further explicit action is required on your part to continue the agreement, and you may end it at any time by departing and renouncing your citizenship.


Take [libertarians] to a restaurant and see if they think it ethical to walk out without paying because they didn't sign anything. (...) The restaurant gets to set the price and the method of contract so that even your presence creates a debt. What is a libertarian going to do about that?

Here we have the standard statist rationalization of trying to associate governments with peaceful enterprises like restaurants. As far as I know, I was not born into a restaurant, and restaurants do not extort half of my income by force !

The fact is that being controlled by one's parents into residing in this or that territory does not a contract make. To recycle Huben's stupid example, if I kidnap someone and force them to eat at a certain restaurant, that person is not under the obligation of paying. He or she did not get there of their own free will.

Renouncing one's citizenship is not the equivalent of the end of a contract. Unless you leave for the high seas or the Arctic circle, you're not going to be able to live without government. So to associate the two is delusional.

The key difference is who owns what. The Mafia doesn't own anything to contract about. The landowner owns the land (in a limited sense.) And the (...) government owns rights to govern its territory.

This is once again a very silly rationalization. The government has no legitimate claim on any territory. It grabs territory by force, just like gangs fight each other over territory. There is no "right" in the "might" of government.

[T]here are no working examples of libertarian cities, states, or nations.

Actually, that is a bald-faced lie. The standard example that libertarians give is Hong Kong pre-Chinese repossession. Examples of orderly and stable anarchies in history include medieval Iceland and medieval Ireland, the Papuans, Labrador pre-1730, and pre-Alfred Anglo-Saxon England.

(...) "Might makes ability to make something", Right or Wrong. You can't even try for Right until you have Might to back it up in the real world. That's the reason that some real governments have survived and all utopian governments that have tried to abolish force have failed.

Even though this primitive FAQ seems to have no philosophy in it, this is a good indication of Huben's moral rationale for supporting coercion and violence. He believes that morality is enforced by the gun. How incongruous is that ? How can any knowledge, which can only be attained by free minds and free individuals, be imposed by the force of arms ? Whoever has such might, will inevitably desire to mold society for his own ends, not in the name of any truth. This is the basic fallacy of statism.

Like most other non-pacifistic belief systems, libertarians want to initiate force for what they identify as their interests and call it righteous retaliation, and use the big lie technique to define everything else as evil "initiation of force". They support the initial force that has already taken place in the formation of the system of property, and wish to continue to use force to perpetuate it and make it more rigid.

I am a libertarian (in the general sense that I want less government - zero, to be more precise) and I do not "support the initial force that has already taken place in the formation of the system of property". I also do not wish to "use force to perpetuate it". Rights of property are extensions of one's right of action. So how can such rights entail force ? When is force needed ? Blank.

Slaveholders use force against their slaves in order to keep them from having wealth and become independent. Free people do not need to use force to respect each other's freedom and property (some people, of course, will use force in any context).

As I told creationists who wondered why I bothered, it's interesting to me to study unusual beliefs for the same reason it's interesting for doctors to study pathologies. You don't have to catch a disease to be able to understand it, fight it, or vaccinate against it.

Wow. I didn't know the desire to stop the exploitation of the masses by ruling classes was a disease that needed vaccination. No one told the people who wrote the Magna Carta, I guess.

What do I think of Mike Huben after this ? I'm afraid I have to copy him on that one. I think he is no different than a Creationist. He shares the passion of the irrational fanatic, and he also shares their corruption of rationality and their willful ignorance of the facts. You can post on his blog if you want to tell him exactly what you think of his silly dictatorial belief system.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Max the Reform Dog / Competition and Monopolies

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A capitalist cartoon ? You dno't say. Check it out at The Adventures of Max.

Àlso check out this thread from anti-state on "Why would competition eliminate monopolies ?".

The first, the natural monopoly, is like when for geographical reasons you only have one supplier, because the area doesn't need to support more. For example, one sports supply store in a small town. i.e. only one sports supply store can be supported by the area market.

The second, the artificial monopoly, is like when a large company decides to try and control the market, raising prices in an area where a natural monopoly doesn't exist. Sometimes they do it by forming an agreement with other similar suppliers, which is called a cartel.

The third, the state monopoly, occurs when competition is prevented one way or another by government (i.e. people with notions of 'government authority').

The first two can form in a laissez faire free market, but the inherent checks and balances which make the free market so beautiful cannot abide them for long and their attempts to control prices is very short lived. The third monopoly is inflicted upon the market with the deceitful claim that it is meant to keep the first two from happening, but in fact, creates longer lasting and more stable monopolies which are worse than the first two types combined.

Grover Cleveland ? / The state cannot impose morality

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I have discussed the worst US presidents on an earlier entry. The Club for Growth nominates Grover Cleveland as one of the BEST presidents :

On the revenue side, he lowered the protective tariff — the main instrument of taxation at the time — after years of Republican abuse. On spending, Cleveland was always frugal, once proclaiming that, “…under our scheme of government the waste of public money is a crime against the citizen.”


In fact, the guy was unrelenting. He vetoed more than twice as much legislation (584) than all of the previous presidents combined (216).

On monetary policy, he had no equal. Not only did he believe in a stable money supply through his unwavering support for the gold standard, but he arguably lost the White House after his first term because of it.

Honest, forceful, and blunt, Cleveland once said, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?”


Most people today don’t know who Grover Cleveland is. They don’t recognize the name and there’s no monument in Washington D.C. paying tribute to his memory. But I, for one, am deeply gratified that he stood at the helm of the American ship and kept it on course for 8 years. He deserves the recognition.

On Strike the Root, Marcel Votluckai tells us why the state could never offer a "moral economy" :

Yet there are rules in the marketplace. The question is whether a monopolistic State is the most efficient way to enforce them. A society and an economy based on theft, fraud, extortion, coercion, and violence would become totally dysfunctional. People have a natural aversion to chaos and therefore construct order around principles such as human/property rights. It's only with a powerful, wealthy government that people who abuse this system can get away with it with impunity--especially when the regulatory agencies are controlled by politically connected businesspeople and politicians who want political points. The State rewards the wealthy and incompetent while legitimate players suffer. Overall, if the State is like a referee, it's a corrupt one immersed in payola scams. Not to mention it's the only game in town; there are no other alternatives as would develop naturally in a free, open market.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Social justice - who's in the right ?

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"They make too much money !"
"People shouldn't be allowed to make 10 million dollars a year."
"How can any person be worth that much ?"

You hear these complaints again and again, against pro athletes, rock stars, CEOs (especially of those big bad pharmaceutical companies - how dare they make medicine !), and other multi-millionaires. The "argument" being that these people are just like you and me, and so they should make as much as we make. That there is somehow something morally outrageous about making more money than most people. That there should be class jealousy, and perhaps more class warfare.

But what does this really mean in economic terms ? Most people do not make their money by stealing it from other people (except politicians, but few people complain about their salaries - they even defend politicians by comparing them to athletes). They make money by selling or helping to sell a product - music albums, tickets, jerseys, whatever. And people pay for these products because they perceive them as being of value. Athletes and singers make their money because they contribute much needed entertainment to people, and these people appreciate it and buy their products.

So then the question arises, how much contribution to people's values is too much ?

Seen from this individualist perspective, the complaints against high salaries are absurd. How can we fault anyone for contributing too much to society ? And more importantly, how can we blame them for consumer choice, something they have no control over ?

At best, an anti-individualist could argue that his values are better than everyone else's and that he wouldn't buy such products, but his values are irrelevant to those of the other people in a given society. People will hold the values they want, and express them in the way they want, and it's the role of the free market to help them do so.

Calls for class warfare, therefore, are misguided. It is not against "the rich" that they are really fighting, but against their "fellow classists" who go to the arena, buy CDs, and watch shows on television. In essence, they are against individual values, because individual values do not promote their classist agenda.

Either way, it is the connection between salary and people's values, which is obvious if you look at the situation in individualist terms, that they are failing to grasp. Salaries are not taken out of thin air. They depend on revenues, which depend on spending, which depend on values. If no one was interested in sports, then no one would go to the stadiums, and no athlete would make money. It is, in fact, a testimony to Western civilization that we have attained such a level of prosperity that we can devote so much money to entertainment !

"Social justice" is not to be found in the greedy power-mongering and kangaroo courts of the statists. Coercion is not just. The only social justice that exists, must be based on cooperation and non-coercion. This is because justice consists of getting what one earns, and not getting the unearned - this applies to trials but to other aspects of life as well. By trading, people deal with each other by value. But when coercion exists, the strong and powerful will always take what the masses earn and use them for themselves, sometimes using them as a tool of manipulation, unearned resources for the taking of this or that interest group.

The free market, therefore, is true social justice, where you receive resources and popularity proportionally to the perceived value of your contributions, and give proportionally to how you perceive other people's work. That is the only just principle. That is the only way society progresses and the only way the masses can work for a better life. It is, in fact, the only principle that has ever yielded progress or equality. The opposite principle - that a ruling class should establish itself by force and redistribute resources to further its aims - has never produced anything but tax slavery, war (financed by tax slavery) and suffering (thanks to war). You shall know them by their fruits !

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Burden of Proof : what it is and is not

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The burden of proof argument is perhaps the single most powerful argument in favour of market anarchy. Aaron wrote about the burden of proof in "The Burden of Proof, and Aaron Kinney's Political Deconversion", and I have a future entry on the topic called "Why should we justify anarchy ?". But until then, I want to quickly point out what it is and isn't.

What the burden of proof argument IS :

* It is an excellent tool to structure the debate between anarchism and statism (in the same way than it informs the debate between atheists and believers). It clearly shows how statism is NOT the default position, but rather in need of justification, just like any other claim about reality.

* It is a very easy argument to use and understand. You may not like what it entails, but you can't really argue with it.

What the burden of proof IS NOT :

* It does not automatically prove anarchism. Anarchism is a claim about reality just as much as statism is. However, anarchism is an inherently simpler claim than statism, since it does not claim that government and its associated processes are needed for a society to flourish (indeed, government is inherently parasitic and thus an attack on society). So the anarchist has somewhat less to prove than the statist. And as we have both deductive arguments about the incentive system of government beign inherently destructive, empirical data from anarchies of the past and present which confirms our thesis, and powerful general arguments against the possibility of statist justification (such as the argument from morality, the argument from the state of nature, or the meaninglesness argument, on which I will write later), it is relatively easy to demonstrate that anarchy fulfills its burden of proof, while statism cannot.

* It is not a one-shot argument. Anyone who is not honest (i.e. committed to reason and logic, following the truth wherever it leads) will not see any validity in it. In most cases the argument from morality should be used.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Religion and politics : collectivist blood brothers

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This is an abridged version of my three-part article "Religion and politics : collectivist blood brothers" on Goosing the Antithesis.

Religious belief systems and political belief systems are both collectivist in nature. And no, I'm not just talking about conservatives - left and right-wing alike are equally collectivist. They both believe that the individual interest must be opposed by the collective will of "the people", simply in different ways. The liberal pretension of "rebellion against power" is nothing more then marketing positioning designed to attract certain segments of the population (like atheists who don't know better).

All politicians have the same values - lust for unearned power, unbridled greed, getting votes, getting acclaim - and they pass the same evil laws, equally pander to the powerful, the rich, the popular, and spout the same rhetoric in order to achieve their corrupt values. I think most people are aware of that fact, but still vote for politicians and support government because they believe, absurdly, that the existence of government is morally right.

This being said, the point I want to raise is how similar religion and politics are as collectivist systems - based on a transcendent, authoritarian entity as director of action (God for one, government for the other).

1. Monotheistic religions and political groups both exist at the lowest level of morality, the authoritarian stage (order-based). Government enforces morality by punishment (fines, jail, capital punishment) and by giving its agents (police) the privileges it needs to root out criminals (a term it can expand at its leisure). The laws are not principles of living or an attempt to rationally discuss social problems, but rather orders to be obeyed. Rational discussion of social problems is, in fact, counter-productive to government, because it is easier to control a population that kow-tows to political force to solve their problems instead of seeking peaceful and individualist solutions.

2. Monotheistic religions and political groups both see morality as a top-down (outside-in) process, instead of a bottom-up (inside-out) process. To the religious believer, epistemology and morality are not discovered by the individual and then applied to the spiritual context, but rather imposed to the individual by a transcendent entity. The same thing applies to government, which is transcendent to the individual. We know this because the "common good" that government seeks has no relation to individual benefit, and therefore is transcendent to any single individual, and because government is not supposed to have any of the foibles of individual humans. Both of these fallacies derive from the collectivist justification of government. Government imposes morality through, as I said before, laws and regulations.

3. If we look at the facts of reality, we see that, while irrationality is widespread (in no small part due to religion and politics), people by and large behave towards each other peacefully and are always ready to help each other. Religion and politics, on the other hand, are predicated on the premise that man is fundamentally corrupt/depraved and must be controlled by force. The premise of government force is that people's values are corrupted by "selfishness", which is really a code-word for "individualism" (they certainly don't mind collectives acting selfishly). Because of this "selfishness", man must be controlled by force for the "common good".

4. Man's corrupt nature can be redeemed by the transcendent authority. Only the widespread imposition of government and its made-up laws (which only benefit government) can save society from the imaginary evils of individualism.

5. This creates a vicious circle of failure and belief reinforcement. As the belief system inevitably fails - because it is based on evil and lies that run counter to human nature, the nature of societies, and the nature of reality - all failures are interpreted as a need for stronger belief and stronger expression of that belief in society (i.e. jam it even more in everyone's throats). This, in turn, accentuates the problems.

6. Both suffer from Special Pleading. Because the authority is assumed to be transcendent, it is not bound to the same moral rules as we are. Any action, even war and genocide, committed by this authority is justified by higher ideals (or unknown ideals, in the case of a hidden god). We strongly condemn murder by private citizens, and yet murder by government or because of government (capital punishment, police shootings, medication withholding by the FDA, gun control, etc), organized murder (war), or slavery for organized murder (draft) are seen as "business as usual" and as something that can be rationally defended.

7. They are both the opiates of the masses, and the parasites of the masses. Both religion and government are parasites on the intelligence, creativity and productivity of individuals - and they themselves produce nothing of substance unless such production can lead to more popularity or support for the belief system.

8. They both seek to stratify society between the ruling class (those who have authority) and the masses (those who don't).

There is one last resemblance : the necessity of government is a fiction, just like the necessity of God is a fiction. Both are extremely harmful to the individualist thirst for progress that has brought mankind up from its natural state and into our modern values and our modern world, and still oppress billions of unfortunate today. To these problems, the only fundamental answer is : individualism.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Protest / Complex Solutions for a Complex World

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You all have to watch this video from the show "Boston Legal" linked at onegoodmove. It is a great piece of work. Too bad it's fictional.

Cafe Hayek discusses the complaints from statists that the free market is a "simplistic solution". His point is that it is government which is a simplistic solution, not the free market :

I admit that my proposed solution for many public-policy problems is to say "Let the market handle it." But this response is neither naive nor lazy. It's realistic. It reflects my understanding that almost any problem you name -- rebuilding the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast, providing excellent education for children, reducing traffic congestion on highways -- is most likely to be dealt with efficiently, fairly and effectively by the market rather than by government.

Saying "Let the market handle it" is to reject a one-size-fits-all, centralized rule of experts. It is to endorse an unfathomably complex arrangement for dealing with the issue at hand. Recommending the market over government intervention is to recognize that neither he who recommends the market nor anyone else possesses sufficient information and knowledge to determine, or even to foresee, what particular methods are best for dealing with the problem.

To this I would add that if statists had to describe their government solution in any detail at all, they would completely sink themselves. It is their own shorthand "government does this... government helps that" which completely ignores moral issues, such as who steals the resources from whom. Just like saying "God did it", it is a statement which actually says nothing at all.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

France: Give Us Economic Ruin, or Give Us Death!

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Protests broke out across all of France today, thanks to some new legislation that will make it easier for unions to fire younger workers. Some of the protests turned violent. Cars were burned, streets were barricaded, and somewhere around 500,000 people took part in the protests.


Saturday's mass protests were among the largest of this week's demonstrations -- including Thursday's marches by tens of thousands -- which have partially closed or shut down two-thirds of the nation's universities. There was also violence at Thursday's protests, and police retaliated with tear gas and rubber pellets, AP said.

Saturday's protests reached every corner of France, AP reported, with organizers citing 160 marches from the small provincial town of Rochefort in the southwest to the major city of Lyon in the southeast.

One quarter of France's youth is unemployed. This is because of their heavily legislated, unionized, and collectivist economy. Their job market is a joke. More legislation will not help the situation. What the people of France needs to do, and what they will surely not do, is remove all the collectivist legislation, remove all the unions, and remove all the unemployment benefits.

The citizens of France are totally addicted to their gift economy. Another CNN article said:

In Marseille, extreme leftist youths climbed the facade of City Hall, replacing a French flag with a banner reading "anticapitalism." Police used tear gas to disperse them, making several arrests.

Oh the sweet, sweet irony. Students who hate capitalism protest with banners on the top of City Hall, and are quickly assaulted and arrested by the same government that they are demanding take more "big brother" measures to protect them!

The irony continues:

"Villepin is trying to destroy France for his own political gain," said David Caruso, 42, an employee of the state-run electric company, festooned with union stickers. "The (plan) may create jobs but it will destroy them again by 2007."

More delectable irony. An employee of a state-run electric company, loaded with union stickers, is accusing Villepin, a lawmaker, of trying to destroy France. While he may be right, it is for the wrong reasons. He is the pot calling the kettle black.

Clearly it is government that leads to social and economic instability, and it is unions that cause unemployment. If the citizens of France continue to demand more government handouts and protections, they will eventually suck their own economy dry. The evidence is all around them. What will it take for them to see cause and effect? Or are they simply too addicted to their socialist system?

My review of "Democracy: The God That Failed"

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Democracy: The God That Failed, by noted market anarchist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, is a valuable but flawed book. First I'll talk about the valuable, and then about the flaw.

First of all, Democracy is an invaluable resource (hah !) when Hoppe discusses the differences in the incentive systems of monarchy and democracy. In chapter 1, "On Time Preference, Government, and the Process of Decivilization", Hoppe explains the concept of time preference, how a future-oriented (low time preference) economy is the mark of progress, and how government, both because of its attacks against property and the legitimacy of these attacks, is inherently destructive to time preference, and thus progress. He also introduces the notion of monarchy as private ownership of government, and democracy as public ownership of government, and how the passage from monarchy to democracy raises time preference in governance, destroying all the remaining incentives for the ruling class to contain their attacks on private property.

In chapter 2,Hoppe gets into the meat of the incentive systems, and how they flow from the concept of time preference. While these chapters get a bit repetitive, they provide plenty of information on the topic. Here is a little list :
* The historical transition from monarchy to democracy (p50-54).
* The rise of the democratic income tax (p54-56) - while monarchies did not typically raise more than 5-8% of their population's resources, the income tax has brought this percentage higher than 50% in most countries.
* The rise in democratic government employment (p56) - government employees represented 3-5% of the workforce in the early 1900s, and around 15% by the seventies.
* The imposition of fiat money by democracies and the resulting inflation (p56-58) - transforming the gradual deflation under monarchies (with periodic failed attempts at fiat money) with the brutal inflation we know today.
* The absurd rise in national debts (p59-60).
* The rise in legislation and the creation of a legislative class (p61-62).
* The rise in interest rates, proving a rise in time preference (p62-65) - Between the 19th century and the rise of democracy, interest rates had attained a historic low of below 3%, while today they sit at 4-5% and higher depending on the times.
* The rise in military spending (p65) - while monarchies spent most of their budget on militaries, the amount of GDP taken by modern militaries is higher than it was in the past.
* The lower birthrates (p66) - which seems like a bizarre addition and not a very good argument, but is explained by Hoppe's conservatism, which I will discuss.
* A discussion about the numerous factors influencing crime rate, including time preference (p66-68).

This, to me, is the most valuable chapter in the book.

In chapter 3, "On Monarchy, Democracy, Public Opinion, and Deligitimation", Hoppe examines the phenomena of public opinion and how it is twisted by the democratic process. Hoppe also proposes, on pages 70-75 and 91-94, a process of deligitimation as the best solution to eliminate government. Chapter 4, "On Democracy, Redistribution, and the Destruction of Property", continues on this theme, discussing the destructive redistributive nature of democracy.

In chapter 5, Hoppe examines the concepts of centralization and secession, when one or the other can be conductive to freedom, and why secession would be beneficial in today's increasingly centralized democratic superstructures.

In chapter 6, "On Socialism and Desocialization", Hoppe changes gears completely and examines how the process of desocialization should have proceeded in former Soviet territories and how it should proceed in today's democracies.

I'm afraid this is where my praises end. Most of the rest of the book is dedicated to two main propositions : that immigration should be restricted, and that conservatism is the best social system. By conservative, Hoppe means "someone who believes in the existence of a natural order, a natural state of affairs which corresponds to the nature of things: of nature and man" (p187). While this is uncontroversial, what he really means is that a conservative believes, as an act of faith, that society should be "based and centered on families" (p201), "families, kinship relations, cmmunities, authority and social hierarchy" (p203), and that the "heads of families and households reassert their ultimate authority as judge in all internal family affairs" (p185). These are, to me, repulsive statements.

It seems he intends his conservatism to be an extension of the concept of natural aristocracy. Now let me be honest. I am not, in any sense of the word, an egalitarian, a populist, or a liberal. I agree that natural aristocracies must develop and are necessary. I am definitely "conservative" in Hoppe's general definition... but not in his more specific definition. His primitivist conclusion that family, race and community need to become the focus of society, and that family is the source of civilization, seems very unproven. Family, as Stefan Molyneux points out, is the fundamental source of coercion and collectivism. As such, the conservatism of Hoppe is no different from anarcho-syndicalism : it replaces one democratic state with a multitude of oppressive concentrated states (in this case, parenthood). Therefore his whole thesis seems futile : in trying to destroy both monarchy and democracy, he desires to create millions of familial monarchies.

In fact, it seems to me that family structures are definitely anti-aristocratic. Your family is not chosen, the "head of the household" is not chosen on the basis of merit, and neither is the right to have children. Traditionally, "reproductive rights" and familial supremacy have been associated with egalitarianism, not elitism. Historical anarchies also do not prove his thesis that familial supremacy is natural - they are definitely tribalist, but not so primitivist as to collapse back to family units as supreme. So I think Hoppe's argument fails the burden of proof and fails on the face of the evidence.

His points on immigration are also good on surface but flawed in depth. He makes the excellent argument that immigration would be much less of a problem if free trade was the norm. But from this, he uses dubious arguments about the need for distance between races and cultures to justify restricting immigration to unprecedented levels. Once again, I agree with his basic thesis - that multiculturalism is not good in itself - but once again he seems to be buying into liberal rhetoric (this time, about cultural exclusivity) to fuel his aristocratic position. It just doesn't work.

This book has extensive footnotes, sometimes dwarfing the main text, but usually for good reason. His quotes are often interesting additions to the book proper.

My final verdict is that I'm keeping the book on the basis of its first chapters, which make excellent reference material. The second half of the book is a case taken in weird directions and which lacks the rigor and justification of his excellent case that monarchies have better incentive systems than democracies. I would recommend this book to anyone who is either a family-worshipping anarchist or someone who can stand the bad parts of the book to get the good parts.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Debunking statist arguments - Against individualism

Individualism is primarily a moral position - a position according to which the individual and individual needs are more important than that of any manufactured collective. But individualism in the moral sense is based on an ontological position. We are individualists because we recognize that there is no such thing as a human collective, only individuals. In this sense, we can define individualism, in the ontological sense, as the position that there only exists individual human organisms (and their political extensions such as buildings, bodies of regulations, and so on).

Or more simply expressed : you can't point at something called "society" that exists without individuals or beyond individuals. It's all people. And bodies of laws and regulations are written by individuals, buildings are built by individuals, etc. Everything we call "society" is the interaction of individuals and their values.

This is mind-bogglingly uncontroversial, so statists have to try to confuse the issue by inserting moral issues into an ontological debate. Kangas is no exception. In his article "There's no such thing as society… only individuals and families" (the position which he incredibly calls a "myth"), he brings out moral concerns of needs into an ontological issue :

Whenever two or more people enter any sort of cooperative relationship, the result is by definition a social group. Group survival is much more effective and efficient than individual survival, but coordinating group survival results in a need for social policy.

That's fine, but what does this have to do with the ontological issue of whether or not there is such a thing as "society" ? Of course cooperating in groups is more efficient and effective than being alone. That's the whole basis for non-coercion, a principle which Kangas rejects. So how can he use this as an argument ?

Well, this is rather vague, so let's look at his main text for more information.

To say that there is no such thing as society is demonstrably false. Humans are born in groups, raised in groups, work in groups, play in groups, defend their interests in groups, and die in groups. These groups are organized, specialized, interdependent, and greater than the sum of their parts. In fact, individuals owe their very existence to group behavior -- namely, the pair-bond, or the union of mother and father.

This is just plain lying. INDIVIDUAL humans are born, not groups of humans. INDIVIDUALS are raised, work, play, defend their interests, and die. The fact that individuals participate in social and economic groups does not make them part of a collective entity. They remain, forever, individuals that come together because of the harmony of their values (whatever values are promoted by their cooperation).

Once again he is confusing the MORAL issue (that people assemble in groups to pursue their values) with the ONTOLOGICAL issue (that only individuals exist).

Then he argues that people on the "far right" (ah, the smell of a Poisoning of the Well in the morning) are wrong to say that individual behaviour explains everything. As an example he talks about a car factory that has thousands of employees, and argues that their cooperation is not spontaneous. Then :

The larger a company gets, the less personal and direct control a president has over it. He must delegate out an increasing share of authority and responsibility, and is more dependent than ever on others to help him run things, investigate conditions, inform policy, and make recommendations. Thus, the structure that evolves takes on a life of its own, and cannot be traced back to any single person.

I'm trying not to insult a dead man too much in these entries, but this is mind-bogglingly, atrociously fucked up. How can anyone sane not look at a giant factory and see the actions of everyone contributing to the product ? Does ANYONE actually think "hmmm... that president sure builds a lot of cars". Of course not ! If the factory is well-run, every single individual plays a role in its functioning. And the functioning of said factory can still be traced to the actions of every single individual that participates in it. How could it not ? There is nothing besides or beyond individuals that can act.

So how does society really work, from the individualist standpoint ? Society is a group of individuals. These individuals want to live a better life, so they decide to come together to cooperate on various enterprises. By doing so, they concentrate their work and are able to produce more. By producing more, they both get benefits from trading the result of their work, and benefit the rest of society by making these resources available. Technology makes their cooperation more and more efficient. This is called "progress".

And then other people, who have nothing to offer except their powers to persuade or threaten, decide to hire a lot of people with swords or guns, call themselves "government", demand half of your new resources every year, and use those resources to make themselves more and more popular, and gain more and more power. But that's another story...

Well, this is the last of my entries about Kangas' "Liberalism Resurgent FAQ". It's not that the rest of his FAQ does not contain bullshit (it definitely does), but rather that he argues a lot more about conservative arguments (which are equally bullshit) than he does against individualist concepts, so it goes outside of the topic of this blog. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed these debunkings as much as I did.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Free Speech or Coercion?

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Lately my attention has been turned to free speech and whether it is wrong to express your beliefs, and/or make them freely available to those who wish to know.

I have had both theists and atheists (presumably all statists to some degree) express to me variations of these two related arguments:

1) You can speak your mind, but not if it offends someone. Your beliefs offend me and I wish you didn't express it.

2) It is acceptable to express your beliefs, but if and only if those beliefs are correct. Otherwise it's wrong.

Both of these arguments are, in fact, incorrect. Why? Because both of these arguments use a form of coercion: forced suppression of free communication. In fact, there is no scenario possible where it is permissible to prevent someone from expressing their beliefs, either by posting them on the internet, or telling a curious inquisitor about them, or any other method of belief expression.

In the first argument I provided, the reason why it's wrong is fairly obvious. Nobody has the right to not be offended, especially when they are the ones who are seeking information and come across some offensive variety of it. For example, I have had theists who found my blog Kill The Afterlife and have given me the first argument. I didn't force them to find or even read my blog. I didn't force them to accept by beliefs as true either. I merely made my beliefs available to those who wanted to read about them. If the theist doesn't want to get offended, then he should close his Internet browser the minute he sees "Kill The Afterlife" as the blog title. If he gets offended by a TV show, he should change the channel.

For a somewhat crude example, allow me to invoke homosexual porn. I do not find homosexual porn arousing. In fact, I think its gross to watch. Actually, I think male-to-male porn is gross, but I love girl-to-girl porn. It’s merely my taste or opinion. Does that mean I have a problem with homosexual porn producers? No! Do I think gay porn should be banned? No! But if I did in fact think gay porn should be banned, then who is immoral? The porn producers, or me, the proponent of coercion? Myself, of course! The porn producers didn't force me to watch it, so what justification do I have to force them to stop it? The fact that I don't like gay porn is no justification at all.

Argument #1 also gives us a slippery slope. What if I don't like chocolate ice cream? Should I ban Baskin Robins from producing it? You can apply this argument to any specific scenario and quickly realize its absurdity.

Argument #2 is a little bit more difficult to pin down. At first glace, it appears like a valid argument to the average Joe (although the errors are probably blatantly obvious to many readers of this blog). But when we dissect it, we can eventually find its error. So let's start with the dissection!

Argument #2 has two distinct components:

1) A belief.

2) A desire to express said belief.

And now to elaborate on these two distinct components and how they are properly acted upon:

1) Use your perception to the best of your ability to (hopefully) arrive at the correct belief.

2) Stand up for your beliefs.

Now both a theist and atheist, both a statist and anarchist, believe that their beliefs are correct. How is one to follow the creed in argument #2 that says "It is acceptable to express your beliefs, but if and only if those beliefs are correct," when the person in question does not know if he/she is incorrect? They think they are correct, so they could never knowingly break this rule even if they attempted to abide by it!

In addition, there is still a coercive, anti-free-market element within argument #2. It’s analogous to saying "The inferior product should be banned from store shelves!" In fact, I recently put together a Coke vs. Pepsi example to expose the coercive and unfair nature of the argument:

Lets say Coke is the best tasting and best priced, and that Pepsi tastes like shit and costs more. Should the Pepsi be banned from the market? No! It should still be available for consumption/evaluation, and should only disappear from the market through natural lack of consumer demand. Only then can you say that the Coke survived cause it was better and that Pepsi disappeared because it sucked. If you forcibly remove the Pepsi from the market, you can never honestly say that the Coke was honestly superior based on evaluation of both products.

Whether its a marketplace of soda products, or a marketplace of beliefs, the marketplace needs to be free.
Only through a free market can these products (or beliefs) succeed or fail on their own merits, because only then will these products be subject to natural selection (consumer demand).

We can now see that argument #2 fails on multiple levels. It fails because proponents of given beliefs always think their beliefs are correct (otherwise they wouldn't believe them), and it also fails because it employs coercion and denies the free market principle.

If an incorrect belief is coercively silenced, then it illegitimizes the correct belief. Even if Coke is truly and objectively better than Pepsi, it will not help the Coke company's image/legitimacy if some Government or Church or terrorist blew up the Pepsi factory, would it?

The free market is the only tool with which we can find out which products or beliefs are truly good or right, and which are truly bad or wrong.

Either you support free speech for everyone, or you don't support free speech at all. If you support free speech, then you want beliefs to succeed or fail based on their own merits. But if you don't support free speech, then you want beliefs to be forcibly silenced - or even eliminated - based on your own taste or whim.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Working for Sears Goods / Inflation Before and After

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Café Hayek has a little list of calculations on how much consumer goods cost now, as compard to how much they cost in 1975.

A ½-horsepower garbage disposer: 20.52 hours of work required in 1975; 4.59 hours of work required in 2006.

Sears lowest-priced garage-door opener: 20.1 hours of work required in 1975 (to buy a ¼-horsepower opener); 8.57 hours of work required in 2006 (to buy a ½-horsepower opener; Sears no longer sells garage-door openers with less than ½-horsepower.)

Sears highest-priced work boots: 11.49 hours of work required in 1975; 8.26 hours of work required in 2006.

One gallon of Sears Best interior latex paint: 2.4 hours of work required in 1975; 1.84 hours of work required in 2006. (Actually, Sears sells no paint on-line, so the price I got for a premium gallon of interior latex paint is from Restoration Hardware.)

The excellent blog Tu Ne Cede Malis gives us this wonderful graph. This is your savings without a central bank. These are your savings after a central bank. Any questions ? (click for bigger image)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Debunking statist arguments - "Social contract"

And we continue on our merry debunking of statism with Kangas' arguments about the so-called "social contract". I don't need to mention that he argues in favour of this nonsensical, collectivist concept.

The "social contract" is a made-up philosophical concept used by collectivist to try to provide justification for government injustice. We're all in this together, they say, therefore we should submit to a central authority that guides our actions and makes sure that everyone does what they should. If they can equate society with an organization, corporation or family, then they can make anyone accept anything on the basis of expediency.

This is the monstruous collectivist siren song that people like Kangas dull people's individual desires with - that you, as an individual, are ony worth anything if you are a good cog in their statist machine. This is, of course, utter nonsense. The whole concept of a "social contract" has got to be one of the most absurd concepts ever devised (the first place belonging clearly to the Christian concept of the Trinity).

Let's begin :

Our constitution and laws form our social contract.

And from the main text :

The nation's constitution and laws comprise our social contract. In this contract, voters have agreed to exchange their money for the government's goods and services, and to abide by laws passed by their democratically elected legislators.

Excuse me... ? "Voters have agreed" ? First of all, I am not a voter, so does that mean I don't have to pay taxes ? Nope. Secondly, when did I "agree" to "exchange" my money and abide by the law in "exchange" for the government's "services" ? I have never agreed to any of these things. Did Kangas (government bless his soul) live in an incredible country where they did such things ? This sort of agreement, to my knowledge, has never existed. This is a statist fantasy and delusion.

Let me make this clear : no "social contract" has ever existed anywhere. The monopoly of power wielded by government forcing everyone to follow a set of laws does exist, but this cannot be called a "contract" by any stretch of the imagination.

Furthermore, we are supposed to believe that a contract can have one side (private citizens) bearing all the responsibilities and duties, and another side (government) getting all the benefits. That's not a contract, but rather more properly called "extortion".

These are enforced by the government, on the grounds that it is the ultimate owner of all the nation's territory.

Pretty clear : the government ultimately owns and controls everything. You're a renter on the government's precious land, and the government has the right to use eminent domain to take it from you at any time, paying you an arbitrary "market value" which has nothing to do with actual market value.

This is, of course, nonsense. Individuals have the right of property. Not "government". Only individuals can own things and control them. What this is really saying is that only bureaucrats should be able to control your land, not you. The question then arises : why ? Because bureaucrats are exalted individuals who have wisdom beyond mere mortals ? Or simply because they are the ones backed up by the guns of the state ? This is the "might makes right" morality which ultimately all collectivism reduces itself to.

The decision to live on its territory constitutes the agreement to abide by its social contract, much like boarding a train constitutes an agreement to pay the conductor when he comes around to collect. Those who refuse to abide by the social contract must not reside on its territory; they should avail themselves to the market of nations, which offers nearly 200 selections.

Once again we see another delusion. There is no "market of nations", unless you already want government. No nation out there exists without government except Somalia, and who the Hell would move there with or without government ?

But most importantly, we have here a reformulation of the democratic principle : "if you don't like it, either participate in the game or leave". But staying in a country does not excuse the evil done in its name. Leaving does not solve it either. To the statist, democracy has nothing to do with truth or falsity, and more to do with playing a game. Whoever gets the most votes must be accepted as "right", at least for the next years - with no consideration for what is true, just or moral.

I choose to board a train. I did not choose to be born in the country I was born in. I also do not choose what possibilities I have - in some countries, leaving is just not an option, either because of extreme poverty or because of the law (as used to be the case in Communist Russia), and immigration is a very difficult process in general. So the analogy is total nonsense and assumes that we are like butterflies, free to "avail [our]selves to the market of nations". It is the ideology of a spoiled white teen whose parents give him the money to travel around Europe, and does not reflect the reality of most people around the world, who are government prisoners.

Once again, we see another case where, despite their insistence of working for the poor and destitute, statists clearly don't give a shit about the poor and the destitute. If you can move, move and go work for the master you choose : but if you can't move, be a good slave and work for the master you didn't choose. That's "human rights", Kangas style.

Libertarians who object that they shouldn't have to move (for a number of reasons) are inconsistent, because their proposed society would recreate the market of nations on a smaller scale. That is, they would create a market of sovereign property owners, and would expect dissatisfied customers, renters and workers to simply go elsewhere on the market.

To a certain extent, this analogy is better than his previous one, but in a certain way, it's still wrong. In the free market, people are not "sovereign" in the sense that they can, like government, kill at their leisure. Unlike government, private citizens are accountable for their actions.

One particular case where the analogy does work, however, is the case of teenagers. If you look at Amish teenagers, for example, you'll see that community living can be extremely damageable to children, who are most vulnerable to brainwashing. But examining this issue rationally demands one to accept individualism as a premise, something which will never happen with statists, and so this is more of an issue to discuss amongst ourselves.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Police Intimidation / Defending Polygamy

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CBS 4 delivers us the surprising news that the unionized police monopoly does not like it when you try to place a complaint against one of their guys.

CBS4 News found that, in police departments across Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, large and small, it was virtually impossible to walk in the door, and walk out with a complaint form.
After hearing our undercover video described, in which representatives of different departments were seen refusing to supply complaint forms, and at times, appearing to belittle or insult the undercover tester for asking (see transcripts below), Timoney said at times the behavior seemed inappropriate for his department’s standards.

At Marginal Revolution, they had an article about the economics of polygamy. An interesting and unusual topic for sure. Their conclusion is that polygamy is illegal because it entails a reduction in sexual demand for most people, and people simply don't want that. At least this kind of social exploitation (anti-polygamy laws that is) is mildly justifiable, but that doesn't make it right.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Debunking statist arguments - Against rights

In my long and, I hope, enlightening debunking of Steve Kangas' "Liberalism Resurgent FAQ", I now continue on the topic of some of the statist arguments that Kangas presents in his FAQ. In this entry, I want to examine the statist misconceptions about rights, presented in "Rights are natural, inalienable, God-given and self-evident" (a position which he, of course, argues against).

The notion of whether rights are natural or not, or whether they are self-evident or not, is, I grant you, rather theoretical, and seems of little practical interest. Isn't the only important thing that we all fight for our rights ? Yes, of course, but one way for statists to defeat this desire is to argue that rights don't really exist, are only preferences, or are inter-subjective, cultural constructs, or are divine constructs subject to the caveats of a particular religion. Then impositions for the "common good" make perfect logical sense, because after all rights are not agreed upon to be subject to that "common good".

So it must be made clear, when arguing the topic against statists, that rights are not cultural preferences : they are natural facts. They are the product of causality applied to human society, just like values are the product of causality applied to human action, and laws of physics are the product of causality applied to particles or groups of particles. Rights are nothing more, nothing less than principles of individual freedom to be discovered by rationality and science.

Does Kangas have an argument against rights ? In fact, he has many. Let's start with the first :

Liberals believe that rights are social constructs, defended by force and open to change and improvement.

We open right away on the assertion that rights are social constructs. So what we have here is pure inter-subjectivism : somehow "society" can model reality according to its whims and wishes, and create rights out of thin air. This is quite a magical world that statists live in !

Even more astonishing is the revelation that rights must be "defended by force" and "open to change". True, our understanding of rights must be open to change, but rights themselves are no more "open to change" than the law of gravity or the theory of evolution. Natural law cannot be "open to change" - it is what it is, and our role is to discover its intricacies.

And truth certainly does not need to be "defended by force", although statists always love to use force, even to defend the most ethereal of concepts, so this is not completely surprising. Why would one need to use force to defend a truth ? To do this is a contradiction : truth can only be attained by cooperation, not by force. Only lies need to be defended by force, because they do not have the power to persuade, and rely on the power of authority to propagate. Faith and force are corollaries.

Anyway, let's continue :

Rights cannot be natural, like laws of nature, because nature enforces its laws absolutely, whereas rights are frequently broken.

This is an equally preposterous statement. Rights cannot be "broken". A criminal may be able to kill another human being, but he cannot change the fact that all human beings have the right of life. The fact that globalized murder would be extremely hurtful to any society - which is a practical unpacking of the right of life - is not changed by the crime at all.

Rights cannot be inalienable, because governments frequently revoke rights.

Now this is interesting. What Kangas is saying here, is that rights can be taken away by government, and that this is perfectly in accordance with the nature of rights. So, if you accept this premise, there is no reason to complain if you lose an important right. After all, that is how rights work ! By that token, anyone who is recognized in history as "fighting for civil rights" is a sham, because they are going against the very notion of rights, at least as presented by Kangas. This is a rather offensive view, to say the least !

Once again, as I said for the previous point, no one can "take away rights". That is a physical impossibility. The closest one could come to that would be to wipe out all of mankind.

They cannot be God-given, because God originally blessed the rights of monarchy, genocide, polygamy, parental killing of disrespectful children, and other rights no one seriously defends today.

This is the only true sentence in his entire summary.

Rights cannot be self-evident, because philosophers have been vigorously arguing over them for thousands of years.

This fallacy is in fact the opposite of the argument from popularity : we can call it an "argument from dissent". While not widely discussed, it is a common anti-materialist argument, by which someone points to popular dissent on a topic - evolution and morality being the typical examples - and conclude that the whole field must be subjective and a question of personal taste. This, of course, is complete nonsense : the fact that there is dissent on an issue does not mean that there is no truth that can be found about it. People have dissented for a long time on the fact that the Earth was round, but this in no way indicates that the shape of the Earth is a matter of opinion. Likewise, the results of this or that kind of society are measurable, and not a matter of opinion.

The only thing that dissent amongst philosophers on the question of rights proves is that most philosophers, behind their veneer of inter-subjective respectability, are immoral or idiotic - like most priests, politicians and pseudo-science salesmen.

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Pat Tillman: Killed by Terrorists Regardless

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The United States Army is launching a criminal probe into the death of Pat Tillman. There has been talk that Tillman was killed by accidental friendly fire while fighting Taliban forces.

Pat Tillman gained notoriety during a few years ago because he turned down a multi-million dollar deal from the NFL to join the Army. Despite popular belief, Tillman was an atheist. This goes to show that atheists are just as susceptible to statist brainwashing as everyone else.

So now the Army wants to find out what really happened. But whether he was killed by Taliban forces or friendly fire is irrelevant in my eyes. Tillman made a mistake by joining the Army, and he paid the ultimate price: his life. Both the United States Army and the Taliban are religio-state organizations that export terror to further their ideological causes. Tillman, unfortunately, only recognized one of those groups for what it was.

Wikipedia : the power of individualism

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Before I continue on my series against statist concepts, I'd like to discuss something that's been brewing for a while about Wikipedia.

People who should know better argue against Wikipedia on the grounds that it is uncontrolled, that it allows any Joe Blow to edit falsities into entries, that it is unreliable. From personal experience as well as understanding the concept of Wikipedia, I find this to be total bullshit. Wikipedia is more controlled and checked than any encyclopedia in the world.

Wikipedia works on the basis of self-correcting progress brought about by the cooperation of individual agents. That is the basis all rational methods work, including capitalism and science. Of course there are errors in Wikipedia : there are errors in all encyclopedia. In fact, a recent study found that Wikipedia has an average of 4 errors per entry, against 3 in Brittanica. Of course, you can see this in a "glass half empty" perspective and say that Wikipedia has 33% more errors. But it's important to remember that Wikipedia is still in full growth, while the Brittanica, like all paperback encyclopedias, is supposed to be a finished product on each edition. It is therefore a stunning defeat of the idea of dictatorial editing that Wikipedia makes such a strong showing.

The whole point of Wikipedia is that it assembles more experts on more topics than any real-world enterprise ever could. It's simply the nature of the Internet. That's how it works. Every single issue, hobby, topic, has its experts on the Internet.

Wikipedia's detractors do not attack it because it is inherently unreliable. Otherwise they would be attacking unreliable paperback encyclopedias as well. Wikipedia's detractors attack it because it is individualistic, and has no central authority. It is this idea of emergent information, of natural law, of the absence of central design, that they cannot stand, that they cannot understand. The notion of order that exists without a transcendent designer is too complicated for their minds to understand. So they demand central editing, and stay agape at the success of Wikipedia. These are the same kinds of people who use Intelligent Design arguments and praise the power of government to solve "social problems".

The same thing applies to the Internet. People attack the Internet, not because of pop-up ads or spyware or idiotic personal pages, but because it gives the individual "too much" information, "too much" freedom of speech, "too much" possibilities to communicate with people without needing face-to-face interactions. They attack the Internet because it's individualistic. As usual, they hate the good for being the good.

Wikipedia's success is the success of individualism and individualistic cooperation. They can't stand that. Let those perpetual regressives simmer. Wikipedia is here to stay !

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Harry Browne is dead

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Harry Browne, former US presidential candidate, libertarian writer and hero, who worked as a financial advisor, has died of the complications of a neurological disorder.

Amongst his well-known works are "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" and "Why Government Doesn’t Work". His web site is still up.

Even though I did not know him personally, I am extremely sad to learn of his death. A giant of man has left us. Sorry to see you go, Harry.