Saturday, April 29, 2006

Market protection against spyware / Tax Obligation ?

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Even though I don't go on popular sites, I still enjoy Sideadvisor. It demonstrates that people can protect themselves from bad sites without the need for central enforcment.

Marc Stevens asks anyone to prove that we have a tax obligation to the state :

What is the basis for the alleged "power to tax"? It's the so-called "constitution." The "constitution" is four unsigned pieces of paper. If there is an alleged "obligation", then it must be based on the "constitution." What facts are there to prove those four pieces of paper created this alleged "obligation"? If you think there are facts to prove an "obligation" to pay "taxes" exists, then please email me at, I'd love to see them.

In ten years not one "tax agent" or "tax" attorney has been able to produce one shred of evidence. It is impossible to prove a "tax obligation" exists using just facts. Again, anyone who disagrees is free to come to the plate and provide the facts. And don't respond by saying my "argument" is "frivolous." I'm asking for facts, not presenting an "argument."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The natural state of man

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Here is the main question that preoccupies me in this entry : which, of anarchy or government, is the natural state of man ?

This may seem like a weird question. After all, everything is "natural", at least in the sense of being a product of physical processes. Rather, I want to contrast the "natural" in this case with the "man-made". For example, I think it's pretty obvious that, whatever you think about the research on spirituality in the brain, specific religions like Christianity are man-made.

So when I use the word "natural", I am talking more about the "state of nature" abstraction that is common to political theory. Some philosophers thought that the state of nature is brutish and violent, and that government is needed to enforce cooperation on human beings. Others thought that human beings, by and large, are able to cooperate, organize themselves, and get rid of criminal elements without a monopoly of force.

One's opinion on the state of nature is not idle speculation, but rather informs one's political beliefs. If man cannot live peacefully without government, then government is justified. If man can live peacefully without government, then government is unjustified. How you see other people has a direct bearing on how you think we should live. The Marxists say man as a greedy exploiter, and thus gave rise to the bloodiest dictatorships in history. The Founding Fathers of American, inspired by the Enlightenment which glorified man's capacities and power, saw man as having inherent dignity and rights.

Even this is not, I think, the right way of seeing the dilemma. If man is a brute, then government only compounds the problem. "Do Pessimistic Assumptions about Human Behavior Justify Government?", by Benjamin Powell and Christopher Coyne, makes that point forcefully :

The existence of a central state shifts and magnifies the power structure that is present in the initial state of nature. Rather than power being dispersed among the populace, it is centralized in the hands of a few. Once individuals possess this power, it is far from clear that they will promote the interests of the ruled. In some cases they may, but in others they may not. And, in the cases where they do not, they have the power to impose great harm on others. Given this uncertainty, one is unable to conclude, contrary to Buchanan and to Olson and McGuire, that a central state is better than an institutionless state of nature.

Or in short : if people in general are brutes and idiots, then fabricating a focus of power and giving it to the most ambitious brutes and idiots only creates a ruling class able to use all the resources of the monopoly to generate more brutality and idiocy.

So the issue of the natural state of man is perhaps not as important as most people think. Nevertheless, it remains an interesting question. I like to subdivide it in these three questions :

1. Is hierarchical organization the natural state of man ?
2. Is capitalism the natural state of man ?
3. Is government the natural state of man ?

My answers are YES, YES and NO.

1. Hierarchies necessarily arise in any enterprise or group, even a household. Heck, it's hard to get two people to live together for a while without them forming a hierarchy. It's also clear - as we observe from other primates - that hierarchies are an evolutionary adaptation designed to improve the survival potential of any single individual by delegating duties and rewards to the most powerful members of his group. So I think it's very clear that hierarchical organization is part of the state of nature.

2. People naturally desire to cooperate and trade. This seems to be another constant in human history. Most people desire to improve their condition and do not desire to do so by violence. Only the incentive-twisting of religion and government pushes them to use violence. So I think capitalism is part of the state of nature.

3. The question then becomes, are these two factors harmonious, or discordant, with the rise of government ? Taking the more reasonable Private Interest Theory narrative of the rise of government - that a group of strong people take control by force and promises to use said force against outside threats in exchange for loyalty - it seems that government is not harmonious with the natural desire for voluntary exchange.

Could the idea of government as social organization also be a fabrication, a sort of memetic freak that took over societies ? When I say freak, I mean something that evolved to such an extent that it has become supremely adaptable and can take over all the environments it gets a foot in. Homo sapiens is a great example of this. Religion is another. I think government is yet another.

In that perspective, the rise of government makes more sense. While rulers can be assassinated or overthrown, the idea of government is able to remain relatively unopposed because it has the power to manipulate people's worldviews and make government morally acceptable. In the same way that religion can make genocide look moral when done by a deity, enough indoctrination can make government wars look moral, and it takes a lot of effort to shift one's worldview back to a more sane and honest perspective.

The Political Objectives Test

2 statements

You scored 28 Equality, 100 Liberty, and 0 Stability!
Liberty is so overwhelmingly important to you that you wish to eliminate anything that can interfere with it. The number one target of your outrage is ‘The State’ (all government + bureaucracy + military) but other forces that may quash freedom (corporations or religions or even family) are also subject to your ridicule. If you have the right personality then you may participate in anarchist actions to remove all these oppressive institutions. You may advocate violent revolution but you are more likely to recognise that violence is itself the product of an oppressive establishment and reject it in favour of non-violent resistance. You think that every individual is sovereign unto themselves but you also recognise that it is natural for us to want to participate in a community. However every relationship must be totally consensual and that extends to ones relationship to any group. The preferred model for you is the community in which everyone willingly participates in decision-making and in which all economic and cultural interactions are freely established or terminated. If this is all a bit much for you then try the Libertarian on for size.

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
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You scored higher than 10% on Equality
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 97% on Liberty
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on Stability
Link: The Political Objectives Test written by Originaluddite on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Market Anarchy Evangelism with David Mills

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I was recently corresponding via e-mail with a good friend of mine, David Mills, about Market Anarchy. For those of you who don't know, David Mills is the author of the #1 best-selling atheist book in the world: Atheist Universe.

David Mills, like 99.999% of all Americans (including, until recently, myself), was for the most part only aware of left, right, and center as the main political ideologies. As an atheist, David rejected the religious right and considered himself a liberal democrat. This political alignment is very common among American atheists, and even I was a self-professed liberal for a number of years. In fact, I've only been a Market Anarchist for less than a year!

Well, one thing led to another, and I am now going to post our e-mail correspondence, slightly edited for the sake of clarity and brevity.

First off, David states that he believes in socialized medical care, in reference to some off-the-air discussions we had during a recent Hellbound Alleee Radio Show recording:


Until I started reading your blog, I was among those who knew absolutely nothing about anarchism -- and I do mean absolutely nothing. I thought anarchists simply like to throw rocks through windows. I do think that anarchism is indeed more misunderstood than atheism. There is definitely a powerful need for a popularly written book explaining and endorsing Anarchism.

Off the air, I made a comment to you that I considered myself a socialist. What I meant was that I believe the United States must do something about the millions of people with no health insurance. Conservatives always call this "socialized medicine," so that's why I used the term. My wife owns a group health insurance company, so socialized medicine in the United States would totally put her out of business. So I have mixed emotions about a lot of these issues.


Of course, David's mention of socialized health care got me to write an incredibly long reply. I will now post my reply to David, edited a bit to reduce it's long windedness:

Hi David,

It is not a surprise to me that until recently you knew absolutely nothing about anarchy. Until about a year ago, I too knew nothing (absolutely nothing) about anarchy. I, too, thought that anarchists were just violent radicals that wanted chaos and the destruction of society.

It is rather strange to think that there is a worldview (anarchy) that is even MORE misunderstood than atheism! But it is true. I sometimes reflect on, and am amused by, the realization that I, through honest inquiry and independent analysis of the "facts" as I see them, ended up choosing the most extreme or misunderstood religious and political worldviews possible!

I had no idea that your wife owns a group health insurance company. But guess what? I actually work for a Group Dental HMO insurance company! What a small world this is. Perhaps you’ve heard of us... I work for a company named "Guardian".

While I certainly understand and appreciate your concern for people, and your desire to see that they get proper access to medical care, being a market anarchist, I must say that I do not believe a socialized system of healthcare is the answer. It may seem strange to you to hear (or rather read) this, but I believe that the answer to the problems in America's health care system can only be answered by a complete deregulation of the insurance and medical industries, as well as a complete dismantling of the welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid systems.

I know that may sound crazy to you, but I sincerely believe that this is the superior answer. Allow me to compare Canada's socialized healthcare with America’s relatively free-market healthcare:

In Canada it is illegal to operate a private insurance company or healthcare practice. No Canadian pays for any medical service when they have the service performed. Instead they all pay into a national, socialized healthcare system based on taxes. Canadians pay more than half of their income to the government, and a large chunk of that goes to their nationalized healthcare system.

Rich Canadians come to America to have their medical services performed. What that means is that when a Canadian can afford it, they sidestep their "free" tax-funded government healthcare system and pay extra to have services performed in America. In essence, they are paying for the service twice: once through taxes, and once through their wallets.

The reason that rich Canadians go to the US to have services performed is because the US system provides a superior quality of care, both in services rendered and waiting time for those services. These strengths of the US healthcare system are a direct result of its (relatively, compared to Canada) free-market framework.

I am now going to use an analogy to help illustrate why a free market with private companies will outperform a monopolistic tax-based system in any given market. My personal analogy of choice is the soft-drink industry:

Imagine for a moment that all private soda manufacturing in the United States was made illegal and all carbonated drinks were to be manufactured and distributed solely by the US government. Furthermore, the US government would promise that when you go to pick up your soft drinks at the distribution center, you don't pay a dime. Instead, you were taxed beforehand for the soda based on the amount of money you make. The government would only produce flavors of soda that get a 50% +1 vote in a "Soda Election".

Would you rather have a government socialized soda-production system, or would you rather have privatized competing manufacturers like Coke and Pepsi? Which system do you think would produce a better tasting product, with better availability, at a cheaper price? This analogy could be applied to any industry, from gasoline to automobiles to clothing, and of course the healthcare industry.

Is it everyone’s right to have a soda? Is it everyone’s right to have medical insurance? Is it everyone’s right to have an automobile?

Or, rather, is it everyone’s right to be free to obtain soda if they choose? Rather, is it everyone’s right to obtain medical insurance if they choose? Rather, is it everyone’s right to obtain an automobile if they choose?

Only recently did I learn the distinction between positive and negative rights. A negative right says "I should be free to obtain insurance if I desire," while a positive right says "I should be given insurance." The difference may seem small or subtle, but it is all the difference in the world between freedom and slavery.

David, I happen to have no medical insurance, and I want it that way. Strangely enough, I work for the Dental portion of an insurance company that provides all kinds of coverages, including medical, and I deliberately chose to not have medical coverage. During my time at being uninsured, I once became sick (with strep throat) and required emergency care. And you know what? I am still glad that I had no medical insurance during that emergency. The amount of money I paid in cash for my treatment pales in comparison to the amount of premium I would have paid had I been insured for the past few years.

The reason I can do this is because I am young and relatively low risk. Obviously, as I grow older and (hopefully, eventually) start a family, I will acquire health insurance for me and my family.

But here is my point: The "choice" of the consumer is paramount. The "consent" of the consumer is paramount. I should not be forced to pay taxes for health insurance any more than I should be forced to pay taxes for government soda pop.

I want to reiterate that I certainly sympathize with your desire to see people have access to the medical care that they need, just like I sympathize with the desire to have access to quality carbonated beverages. But I do not sympathize with the desire to forcibly provide financial coverage to everyone regardless of whether they want it or not, just like I do not sympathize with anyone’s desire to force everyone to pay for government produced soda.

So David, when you think of a national socialized medical system, think about me, and my desire to not have medical coverage at my current age and health. Yes of course, being uninsured is a bit of a risk, even for a single 27-year-old American male like myself. But shouldn't I be free to choose to take the risks I want? Shouldn’t I be able to say "no, I would rather keep those insurance premiums to myself and do what I want with them, and if I have a medical emergency, I will pay for it myself or get a loan or ask family members for help"?

In other words David, don't you think that those who do not desire insurance coverage should not be forced to purchase it, just like those who do not drink soda should not be (and are not) forced to purchase it?

Like you David, I was a liberal for quite a few years. For most of my life, the only choices I was aware of were left, right, and center. When I was first introduced to market anarchy last year, I was very resistant. Although I was definitely a supporter of capitalism and a free economic market of exchange, I also believed that taxes were good and that a government of some kind was necessary.

It took me nine months of intellectual wrestling inside my head to have a "breakthrough" of sorts and realize that the "burden of proof" that we so heavily rely on in atheism also applies to any positive claim, including the claim of the necessity of government. It is the statist, or the supporter of government, who must meet the burden of proof to prove that government is indeed necessary.

But the statist cannot meet that burden. A government is not necessary for people to obtain soda pop, nor is a government necessary to provide medical services (remember how Canada's rich pay twice just to have medical services performed in American hospitals?), nor is a government necessary to provide law and order. Without getting too deep in the "law and order" claim I just made, I would like to say that it is a very popular practice nowadays for private parties with disputes to go through private arbitration rather than a state or federal court, as it is less costly, less time consuming, and produces judgments that are very fair. In fact, private arbitration is flourishing in America today, and many - if not most - contracts that are agreed upon by privately dealing entities include private arbitration clauses.

People should always be 1) free to choose what services and goods they will purchase, and 2) free to start providing any given good or service they want. This includes medicine, soda, laws, security, and leadership, and everything else you can think of.

The Government removes freedom of choice from the consumer. The Government also removes freedom for a person to provide services and goods as they see fit. With a socialized nationalized healthcare system, you only have one monopolistic service provider (the government), and you cannot purchase a competing product if you are dissatisfied with the service. You cannot even choose to not purchase the government’s product at all! They force you to buy their product, and the 50% +1 of customers who disagree with you will force their idea of what the product should be down your throat.


Aaron Kinney

After David read my e-mail, he sent me this reply:


If you haven't done so already, I do hope you'll post on your blog the message you sent to me below. It was great!!! I learned more about anarchist theory and practice in the last ten minutes than I've learned in the last 47 years. I was especially fascinated by your relevant points because, as you know, my wife owns a group health insurance business (

She of course is completely against socialized medicine since it would absolutely put her out of business. I found all the points you made incontrovertible. The freedom of choice issue was, to me, the most convincing of all. I also was stunned to realize that you could come out financially ahead, without insurance, even if you suffered some medical expenses during that time period. This is a subject you should write more about and share with me -- and others as well.

Thanks again for the fabulous message,


It looks like I am now both an atheist and a Market Anarchist evangelical.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Market anarchy and arbitration

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The main evil of government is that it puts everyone in a situation of social warfare. As a monopoly, government can only implement one value system, and people fight each other over which value system should control this or that arae of society. This is extremely evil. The main strength of market anarchy is the fact that it allows people with different value systems to co-exist in the same society, and to live the way they desire without impinging on each other's happiness.

Therefore, perhaps the most interesting issue in market anarchy, and the issue that illustrates its moral superiority the best, is how to arbitrate between different codes of law offered by different organizations.

With government, the resolution is simple : democracy. Both sides must spend their energy and resources convincing people that their way is the best way, and whichever side wins the most votes, gets to impose its value system on everyone else. This is the basic reason why democratic governments breed social warfare. And this is why democracy is a superior process in ensuring the legitimacy of government, as it diverts people's attention from its wrongdoings, and turns it into hatred toward each other. Then government comes in and twists the choice of the people for its own advantage.

In a market anarchy, people would join one of many Protection Agencies (PAs), which would offer services ranging from insurance against future crime, to emergency call-ins, to armed patrols and investigations. And there's no reason why you would have to provide for your security at all times - malls and busy streets would have incentives to provide for it too (as malls do now). After all, public police does not provide a great service to begin with, and yet people seem pretty satisfied with it. Imagine what a free market could do !

When drawing contracts together, people might also join what Stefan Molyneux calls DROs - Dispute Resolution Organizations. DROs would pass judgments regarding contract breaches and things of that nature - a trade court of sorts.

By replacing the evil and inefficient monopoly of government, PAs and DROs represent nothing less than political freedom. They represent the extension of the individual's value system in society.

But what happens if there is friction between these organizations ? First of all, I think such friction would be the exception rather than the rule. Even though most people differ in value systems, I also think that most people have a basic agreement on what is right and what is wrong. We all think murder is bad, theft is not a great idea, rape is depraved, we shouldn't go around and bash people on the head with bottles, etc.

Still, there will always be friction, because people will always have different value systems. So what do we do ? That's where arbitration comes in.

Let's first look at an extreme example, the kind of example that a communist or nazi or some other unsavory character, who only thinks in terms of criminality, might use to argue against anarchy. Suppose a murderer joins an PA that does not prohibit murder (because he does not want to be prosecuted for his crimes, of course). This murderer then kills someone who is a member of an PA which prohibits murder. What happens ?

Well, there are two problems here. The first is, those two PAs would have to arbitrate their differences, or at least be members of an arbitration organization which sets out guidelines for these cases. And it is highly unlikely that an EA would be part of any arrangement which permits murder against its customers - because it would quickly lose all ita customers. So arbitration in such cases would always be to the favour of the anti-murder PA.

Furthermore, given that people within the pro-murder PA could kill each other with impunity, membership to that PA would be extremely undesirable. Murderers would now be identifiable, and every such person would become a marked man. So there is no interest in working this way !

Would there be armed conflict between these two PAs ? Would it degenerate into civil war ? That is rather unlikely, since armed conflict is always more costly than arbitration. And a PA which engaged in warfare against another would run the risk of being judged as a rogue organization in turn. There would only be interest in the EAs to band together if they had general support from their customers to fight against a rogue organization which itself perpetrates crimes.

This is an extreme example, but the principles here apply to all friction :

1. In the case of two customers of the same EA conflicting, the code they have both chosen applies.
2. In the case of customers of different EAs, the relevant DRO (if drawn between two specific PAs) or arbitration would apply.

In practice, I imagine that this process would be as simple as a policeman asking to see your PA card or looking you up. He would be trained to know what to do depending on which PA you belong to. If you are wrongly detained, then arbitration would no doubt compensate you for your trouble, because such errors would reflect badly on its services.

What about friction that goes beyond a certain territory ? It couldn't be called "international", if only because there would be no more nations, but there is no doubt that people can travel far beyond the jurisdiction of one or the other agency. So you would get into issues of extradition. There are also issues which go beyond the scope of individual agencies, such as epidemics, natural disasters, or space travel. This "World League" would be financed by PAs and DROs, and its role would be to deal with issues that can only be dealt with by world cooperation.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Scientific Cultural Theory Test

4 statements

You scored 68% individualism, 36% fatalism, 24% hierarchy, and 0% egalitarianism!
You strongly adhere to the culture of Individualism. Individualists believe that everyone should be given a fair chance, but people should be allowed to succeed or fail based on their merit. Competition -- in the marketplace, in elections, or elsewhere -- is your forte. Individualists think nature is resilient, like a ball at the bottom of a cup, and therefore competitors can be given free rein to exploit it.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
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You scored higher than 44% on individualism
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 57% on fatalism
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 21% on hierarchy
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on egalitarianism
Link: The Scientific Cultural Theory Test written by Stentor on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Is anarchy utopian ?

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In my previous entry, I talked about arbitration in a market anarchy. This is, I think, the second most popular argument against anarchy. The most popular argument is that anarchy is utopian, either in nature or as a future possibility.

Like Stefan Molyneux, I think this objection is absurd is a basic way. The fact is that the vast majority of interactions in our lives are anarchic - they do not involve or rely on government force. Anarchy is already about 95% of our lives. This of course raises a question - if government is not necessary, and in fact harmful, to 95% of our lives, how could it possibly help the last 5% ?

The other problem is that, while government intervention in our lives is relatively unnoticeable, the areas of our lives controlled by government are of extreme importance for social life. So government invervention is dispersed and mostly in the background, but extremely damageable as a whole.

Another fact is that anarchic societies have existed in history, and still exist, and have been shown to be more stable and progressive than governments. Of course, no one ever learns that in history class. What interest does the government has to teach you that it's not necessary ?

And now here's the clincher : the most successful discipline in the history of mankind is anarchic ! Yes, I'm talking about science and the scientific method. Science is not based on force. It is based on curiosity and an honest search for the truth, reined in by testing and peer review, driven by the ambition to overturn old paradigms, and made legitimate by how well it works. It is not based on the force of the gun, on manufactured legitimacy, or on parasitical rhetoric (although the "science for science's sake" contingent can sometimes come close to that).

True, government has always been entangled in science, and especially today government twists science for its own ends, like it does for anything else in a society. Both right and left wings in politics use activist science to legitimize their worldviews, and interest groups that mascarade as science manipulate the media and government power all the time.

But even though it profits from organized theft, science is still by and large anarchic in nature. Its outputs are founded on networks of testing and cooperation instead of force.

Fundamentally, what does utopian mean? It is used to designate a belief system that one desires to impose on society, when such system goes against human nature. Statism is fundamentally utopian. It denies the basic moral fact that the individuals in a society all have different value systems, and tries to impose a singular value system (as expressed in the law and state intervention) on an entire society, leading inevitably to social warfare. Market Anarchy is nothing more than the recognition that all individuals should be free to live the way they want, and give them the possibility of expressing their nature. Market Anarchy is therefore the polar opposite of utopian.

As we've seen, the belief that anarchy is utopian is almost trivial to disprove. So where does it come from and why does it persist ?

The main source, I think, is the constant propaganda and brainwashing we get from day 1 about the necessity of government, more specifically the confusion between "law" (a single body of rules enforced by government) and "order" (absence of coercion and presence of structure). Even though the two were separate for most of history, we have grown so accustomed to state slavery that we can't see the difference anymore.

It takes mere seconds for anyone to understand a principle as clear as "government is force", but the emotional investment most people have in the system is so great that, like a cultist confronted with internal contradictions, they have no choice but to rationalize it.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Benevolent diktats

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Dustin at Futureshock blog asks us what ten initiatives we would start as benevolent dictator. Here are mine (assuming that we're talking about Canada here) :

1. End the War on Drugs, free all drug prisoners.
2. Open ALL markets to private enterprise, including health care, police and courts.
3. Pass a plan for the progressive abolition of the state within the next ten years.
4. Demand for taxi money to go back home.
5. Abolish my own post.
6. Get back home.
7. Get on the computer and brag to Aaron and Andrew that I was dictator for a day.
8. Get a popsicle.
9. Eat the popsicle.
10. Take a walk.

Religion - the prime enemy of anarchy

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The worst enemy of market anarchy - or any kind of anarchy for that matter - is religion.

This is both a historical fact and a logical fact. The most famous anarchy in history, Iceland, lasted three centuries but was destroyed by a religious conflict (between the local religion and Christianity) introduced by the Norwegian monarchy (for an account of this, see "The Decline and Fall of Private Law in Iceland", by Roderick T. Long).

Why should we expect religion to be the worst enemy of free markets ? Because religion is a form of discrimination that is beyond rhyme or reason. Usually, in a free market, discrimination is not profitable. If I banned, say, blonde-haired people from buying my products, then I would inevitably lose money. Unless I faced extensive boycotts, I would be self-interested in lifting the ban.

But religion does not brook competition, because it is not based on self-interest but rather on dogma. No evidential argument can possibly convince a believer that his form of discrimination is wrong, because it is nothing more than a question of dogma. The Icelanders could not make religion a question of individual decision like they did everything else, and that is why their system failed - not for lack of government, but because their anarchy did not extend far enough !

If we look at the issue from the wider historical perspective, we observe one constant. Government and religion form, most of the time, a powerful symbiosis. This is perfectly natural, after all, since both affirm that man is depraved and must submit himself to a collectivist will. To legitimize his power, a king needed to be imbued with religious prestige. As I discussed in "The evolution of politics", democratic governments need religion less than monarchies did, because their legitimacy problem is solved for the most part. No one questions the exploitative nature of political power any more (except us market anarchists, who are of course called crackpots).

The only times where this symbiosis turns sour is when an extreme case of government or religion is present. Extreme government - nazism, communism, dictatorships - sees organized religion as an ideological thorn in its side, and extreme religion - Islam and fundamentalist Christianity - desires to claim the state's power for its own brand of moral corruption.

In the normal symbiosis scenario, government busies itself with controlling bodies, and religion busies itself with controlling minds. Together they form a perfect system of social control, and catalyze each other. Nowadays, religion is a free rider on government power, keeping its grip on the people through religion-friendly laws and support from the state. In exchange, religion promotes social stability (which, while a nuisance to the individual, is very desirable for the government) and anti-individualist beliefs.

It seems clear that, if one of the two recedes, there is an opportunity for the other to expand beyond its normal size. We observe this in secular Europe, where religion recedes and statist beliefs take its place as meaning-giver. On the other hand, the case of receding statism in the former USSR is not instructive, since religion was banned to begin with, and thus gives no indication of actual religiosity. And the degree of statist belief is not measured with the same eagerness as religiosity.

As an atheist, I am quite concerned by the fact that religion is not the only parasitic and destructive force in society. As a market anarchist, I am also quite concerned by the fact that government is not the only parasitic and destructive force in society. These labels taken alone, therefore, fail to encompass the full dimension of social evils. There is only one label which, I think, does the job, and that is the label of individualism. It is the fulfillment of personal values, the rebellion against ruling class values, that government and religion are banded against. It is therefore individualism which really matters, and atheism and anarchy which are its corollaries.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Reverse Insurance Part 1: What it is

27 statements

What is traditional insurance? Traditional insurance is the kind of insurance that the average Joe is most familiar with. In traditional insurance, a consumer (policyholder) and a coverage provider (the insurance company) set up a contract where the consumer perpetually pays a premium amount at regular intervals (usually monthly, but sometimes quarterly or annually etc.) to the coverage provider, and the coverage provider promises to pay for the costs of a given accident or situation, should the accident or situation occur. The consumer gets financial protection from the sudden and unexpected cost of an accident, while the insurance company gets money.

With traditional insurance, the consumer is essentially betting money that he will have a specific kind of accident and need a large sum of money to pay for it, while the insurance company is betting that he will not get in an accident. Actually, it's a bit more complex than that. The insurance company is actually betting that in a given group or category (example: 18-25 year old white male, nonsmoker, etc.) only X number of people in the group will have a given accident, and that if the company charges Y amount of dollars for each person in the group, it will be able to pay for all the accidents likely to happen and still make a profit. Even that explanation is a bit simplified, but it will do for our purposes here.

In this way, a traditional insurance company is analogous to a casino. Yes that's right: a casino. You see, like an insurance company, a casino is betting that you will not get in a proverbial "accident" by winning the crapshoot or card hand. Or to be more specific, the Casino is making a bet that over the long run, your losses will outweigh your wins. In other words, it is betting that the premium you pay at regular intervals will be greater than the amount of wins that you have, and therefore make a profit.

The consumer (policyholder or gambler) wants the financial value of their wins or accidents to outweigh the premiums or bets that they pay, while the insurance company or casino wants the incoming premiums to outweigh payouts. Accordingly, both the insurance company and the casino will "stack the decks" by setting the percentages or premium amounts in a way that virtually guarantees a profit. With a casino, they make the payout ratios and house advantages favored to bring in a given percentage of profit. With an insurance company, they make the coverage provisions and premium payment amounts also favored to bring in a given percentage of profit.

With both a traditional insurance company and a casino, the incentives - and vulnerabilities - are the same. In the same way that an unscrupulous gambler may try to cheat to win more bets, the unscrupulous policyholder will cause an accident or fake an injury to get a big insurance payout. This is why insurance fraud is a problem for insurance companies, and why cheating is a problem for casinos. Both insurance companies and casinos spend big bucks to fight fraud and cheating, which results in higher premiums for the consumer - not to mention the casino cheaters and insurance fraudsters themselves, which raise the premium amounts for the consumer even more.

The similarities between traditional insurance and casinos continue: If the consumer never wins a bet or gets in an accident, they never get any of their money back. Conversely, if the consumers win more bets than they lose or if they get more money in accident payouts than they pay in premiums, they do not have to pay back the difference. Both systems are a gamble, and in both systems, the house usually wins. If the house didn't win most of the time, then casinos and insurance companies wouldn't exist. But they do exist, and they make a lot of money. While making a profit for providing a desired service is all well and good, there is a better bet for consumers that will still make big bucks for providers. That bet is reverse insurance.

What is reverse insurance? Reverse insurance is a bet that you make where you don't pay any premiums unless - and until - you get in an accident. In this way, a reverse insurance company more closely resembles a bank or loan company. Unlike in casinos and traditional insurance, the consumer has to pay back all the money (over regular payment intervals) that was used for the accident. Accordingly, if the accident never occurs, or the loan is never taken out, then the consumer has no payments to make! The reverse insurance company will guarantee a loan that is payable over a certain time frame at regular intervals, with an interest rate that would be based on the policyholder's credit rating. It’s just like a bank loan!

There are of course some fundamental limitations to reverse insurance. It will not work for coverages that involve the consumer's ability to produce future earnings and make payments. Coverages like long-term disability and accidental death will not be workable in a reverse insurance system because a consumer cannot bet his future earnings against his ability to make future earnings!

So what is reverse insurance good for? Everything else! This includes personal coverages that do not involve future earning capability, like short-term disability, dental coverage, cosmetic coverage, and others. It also includes all property coverages, like automotive, home, flood, and fire, just to name a few. Business can even reverse insure themselves against property loss or even place-of-operation (location) and business continuity loss. For the business can be covered for the loss of its center of operation, relocate or rebuild it with the payout money, and then use its future earnings to pay the loan back.

The reverse insurance system has a very important advantage over traditional insurance: the incentives are reversed. Unlike a traditional insurance company or casino, the payment scheme is "reversed" from before-the-fact to after-the-fact. This requires a more direct application of risk assignment to the consumer in the form of a specific contract between the consumer and the coverage provider that all money paid out must be paid back, plus interest. That means that the more money the reverse insurance company pays out, the more it stands to profit. It also means that the unscrupulous policyholder cannot stage a big accident, receive a payout, and then cancel their policy, free from having to pay back the money received. Therefore, the unscrupulous policyholder has virtually nothing to gain by staging an accident, and the reverse insurance company has virtually nothing to lose by handing out cash.

While fraud will undoubtedly still exist in a reverse insurance system, it would likely be in much smaller amounts. The traditional insurance industry in America today loses billions of dollars annually to insurance fraud. How much money does the bank loan industry lose annually to fraud or failure to collect? Not nearly as much as the traditional insurance industry loses. That is because not only are incentives reversed for both policyholder and coverage provider, but traditional insurance companies specifically allow for a policyholder to collect more money than they pay in premiums when a legitimate accident occurs; reverse insurance companies specifically do not make this allowance. It is much easier to fake an accident and pass it off as legitimate than it is to fake an identity or disappear from collectors and investigators.

I am no insurance hater. Traditional insurance is a good idea in many situations. But reverse insurance is also a good idea in many situations, and it is sorely underutilized in today's insurance market.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Tax Stats / Ron Paul is Wrong

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The Club for Growth has some interesting tax stats compiled from IRS data. Turns out the old "the rich don't pay taxes" bromide is just more propaganda :

Top 5 percent of income earners: 54% of all tax revenue
Top 1 percent of income earners: 34% of all tax revenue

Marc Stevens wrote an article for Strike the Root telling us that Ron Paul is wrong about "illegal immigration" (whatever that expression means) :

Why do people come to this part of North America commonly called the “United States”? They are fleeing vicious gangs called government. People from Mexico come here because their opportunities to create wealth are violently restrained because of governments’ continued insistence “to allocate far more resources” from the people they control, plunder and murder. They believe their ability to create wealth is less hindered here.

De-legitimizing government is much easier when government works so hard with us to do so. However, Dr. Paul’s article is the opposite, it’s nothing more than pro-government propaganda; it diverts attention away from the problem, i.e., a gang of killers, thieves and liars controlling us and stealing our property.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Myth of the Greater Good

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Have you ever been at the gym and seen somebody with a shirt that says "Do it for the greater good." or "The group over the individual." I actually saw that once. On the gym wall of my government school it was actually painted, "There is no I in Team."

Instances such as these all help to perpetuate and propagate the myth of the greater good.

People claim that there is an inhrent good for a culture. Cultures do not exist, and cannot act. The only thing which exists is the individual.

Taking Measurements on a Deserted Island

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One claim often made by relativists is that without a device to precisely measure morality, we cannot say that morality is based on facts.

I challenge relativists to go to a deserted island where there are no metre sticks, litre bottles, clocks, thermometers, pH meters or altimiters and tell me that measurements of length, volume, time, temperature, water acidity and altitude cease to be based on facts. All aspects of reality exist as facts. Morality is no exception.

Please note: I am NOT saying that we have no way of determining morality from immorality. That issue is separate from the above stated relativist claim, and thus is saved for another post.

Friday, April 14, 2006

My First Shot in the War on Relativism

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All relativists are hereby challenged to respond to this thread stating that every action that any person has ever taken was moral. Since relativists define morality by culture, they have NO RIGHT to condemn Gestapo death squads, Islamic terrorists, or even Charlie Manson for doing whatever deeds they deem to be moral.

Who is willing to defend nazi prison camps as a part of twentieth century German culture?

Are you going to stand up for the members of the Ku Klux Klan who killed blacks in the name of their white culture?

I want someone to write a comment defending the parents who sexually, emotionally and physically abuse their children, because parental culture is just as valid as any other.

Atheists, are you going to stand by and tell me that its moral for Christians to kill you, just because murder is a part of their culture?

Go ahead, I dare you!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Aaron Kinney vs. Jury Duty

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The past couple days, in beautiful downtown Los Angeles, I served as a potential Juror. Before I even first reported to the courtroom, I already suspected that my individualist and market anarchist views would get me kicked out, and today they did.

In American courts, there are usually a total of sixteen jurors chosen to hear a given case: twelve regular jurors, and four alternates. During the juror selection phase, the judge as well as both the prosecution and defense attorneys ask questions to the jurors to determine their "fairness". The judge may dismiss or "excuse" any juror he wants whenever he wants, while the attorneys excuse jurors in a series of rounds. In each round, the prosecution and defense attorneys each have the option to excuse one juror. The prosecution asks questions first, and then the defense gets its turn. When a potential juror is excused from the jury box, a new one from the pool is immediately called to fill the seat. They continue this process of asking questions and excusing jurors until the judge, prosecution, and defense are all satisfied with the "fairness" of the sixteen jurors in the jury box.

The case I was assigned to was a civil case regarding an uneducated immigrant who was brought to America "illegally" to work as a live-in housemaid for a rich immigrant couple (the rich immigrant couple both are legal U.S. citizens). The housemaid is claiming false imprisonment, and wants back-wages for her work (allegedly she was paid far below minimum wage, and no overtime), as well as compensation for emotional distress.

A dozen or so potential jurors were excused the day before, with both sides asking the potential jurors many questions about their feelings on illegal immigrants, immigration laws, minimum wage laws, and emotional distress. Thinking about the way I would answer these questions, especially the questions about illegal immigration, led me to believe that I would be biased in favor of the prosecution, and that the defense would quickly excuse me. But it didn't quite happen that way.

Today my name was called. I felt pretty confident that all I had to do was be completely honest to get excused from serving. I sat in the jury box and answered a few questions from the judge about my job, marital status, etc. Then the prosecution got up to ask me a few questions. The first relevant question the prosecution asked me was, "do you have any strong feelings on immigration?" To which I replied, "yes, I have very strong feelings about immigration." The prosecution asked me to elaborate. I said, "I am very much in favor of immigration. I believe that everyone should be able to go anywhere they want, and work wherever they want, any time they want. I think all illegal immigration laws should be done away with."

This of course raised almost eyebrow in the courtroom, and some of the potential jurors chuckled or shifted in their seats. None of the twenty-odd potential jurors interviewed so far had said anything like this, and I figured that by now I was already on the defense's "no" list. But the prosecution suddenly shifted gears and asked me, "How do you feel about minimum wage laws?" It was worded in a more direct way than had been to other potential jurors. I replied, "I don't believe in the minimum wage."

Again eyebrows raised; nobody had said anything like this before either (although previous questions about minimum wage hadn't been this focused on the principle of it). The prosecution half-chuckled, paused and said, "you have some interesting views, Mr. Kinney. Why don't you believe in minimum wage?" I suddenly realized something that I hadn't until that moment: my anti-minimum wage views would also put me on the prosecution's "no" list! I dutily replied, "because it restricts the ability of the employer and employee to agree on a contract that is consensual and mutually beneficial. It hurts the poor."

The prosecution then asked me, "do you feel that you can fairly judge this case according to the instructions given to you by the judge about American law?" I thought about it for a second, and responded, "yes I feel that I can view the case fairly in regards to American law and follow the instructions given to me by the judge."

The prosecution didn't seem to believe me, and quickly asked, "but how can you judge a case according to laws that you are so philosophically opposed to?" I wanted to respond with something much more pointed, but instead shrugged my shoulders and said, "well, that's government."

The prosecution then asked if I was opposed to payment for "emotional distress," and I replied that I believed that emotional stress is real and when it happens there should be restitution. But by now the prosecution seemed to have its mind made up, and shortly ended it’s questioning.

The defense had no questions for me. I wasn't surprised.

It was then time for the next round of juror dismissals. The prosecution went first, and promptly dismissed me. Since it was my third day at the courthouse, my service was completed. I left the courthouse feeling very happy.

I spent the next few hours walking around downtown Los Angeles and taking pictures with my camera phone. I will post some now. The first six pictures were taken in early April on a cloudy day, and the rest were taken the past two days when it was warm and sunny.

Hint: Hover your mouse over the image to get more info about it!

From a distance

Ugly apartment building in the way

US Bank Tower, formerly the Library Tower, from a distance

US Bank Tower, closer

Even closer

A crazy sharp skyscraper. Sweet!

The Walt Disney Concert Hall. I love almost every big building in downtown LA, but this one looks like shit to me

More skyscrapers

I don't know the name of this one but it looked cool from where I was standing

A trio of beautiful skyscrapers. I really love the architecture in downtown Los Angeles

The US Bank Tower is my favorite. It is 73 stories and 1,012 feet, making it the tallest building in America west of the Mississippi

Anatomically correct statue in Bunker Hill
A note on the last picture. The US Bank Tower is built in a hilly area of downtown known as Bunker Hill. At the base of the tower is a 103 step concrete staircase with a fountain running in the middle of it. At the top of the staircase is this pedestal with a statue of a woman on top. The camera phone doesn’t have that good resolution, but this statue is extremely anatomically correct. Its just that I was surprised to see something that was, to me, such an honest piece of art.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Freedom Ain't Easy

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"Freedom" is a loaded concept used in practical politics as a push-button process, to be associated with any other concept. For example, you have the recent American association of "freedom and democracy", which is absolutely insane. Democracy is basically a veil of legitimacy given to the state, and thus is actually the opposite of freedom. The kings of old needed a strong religious justification for their status, and I'm sure they often wished to have the approval rates that presidents get today because of democracy.

In the rational individualist perspective, morality is the study of optimal value-expression. Freedom, therefore, is best defined as having the most possibilities of value-expression. The more I can choose, the more values I can effect, the freer I am.

This fits perfectly with the common idea of freedom, as the absence of physical slavery. A slave is not free to effect his values, rather he must fulfill his master's values. The little values he can fulfill are permitted because they reinforce his slave status.

Freedom is not restricted to political freedom. When someone is under the grips of a mind-bending cult, we say that he is not free, even though he may live under an anarchy. He is not free because he is a slave in his own mind, and thus cannot be free in any other way. Freedom is not cumulative. If you live as a slave, or are ostracized in a community, or live in a country where few resources are available, or are oppressed by a dictatorship, you cannot effect your values. You are not free.

In these four examples we have our four categories of freedom. These are :

1. Personal freedom, which consists both of freedom of thought and health of the body. Personal freedom depends partly on our decisions : drug addiction makes you personally unfree.

There is a sort of myth that personal freedom means to live alone and run free on the plains. This is total nonsense. If you live alone running in nature, you can effect very few values except your immediate survival and physical needs. Standards of living higher than bare survival necessitate living in society. This is also why the altruist view of morality, which is based on the belief that egoism is incompatible with living in society, is invalid.

2. Relational freedom, which consists of how well you relate with others in your surroundings and how they help or hinder you in your value-expression. If you are ostracized from a community, then you lose all the possibilities that being in that community used to give you. You lose freedom. The same thing is true with friendship or love.

3. Social freedom, which consists of the economic and intellectual power contained within the larger society of which you are part, as well as the mores and institutions that rule that society. Even though Somalia is an anarchy, I would never move there, simply because my social freedom in Somalia would be too low. For the people of Somalia, the transition was positive, but only because their initial situation was horrible to begin with.

4. Political freedom, which consists of how oppressive the political organization in the larger society is.

How much control do we have over these freedoms ? A descending amount. We have considerable amount of control over our personal freedom, although obviously we do not choose our genetics or the accidents of Providence. We have some control over our relational freedom, insofar as we can act benevolently and try to influence people in our favour. We have very little control over our social freedom or political freedom, apart from moving to another country.

This extended concept of freedom indicates to me that, while anarchy is the best political system because it permits the expression of the political values of the individual, it will not necessarily have an overriding influence on an individual's total freedom. The other thing it tells me is that you can't be an anarchist or a libertarian if you don't have a solid moral compass.

People's beliefs are dominated by FUD - Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt - to which I would also add Guilt (GUFD ?). Religion, government, the family structure, cultural supremacism, pseudo-science, and a lot of criminality, are all based on these impulses. These things are for the mentally weak. If you are dominated by a FUD ideology, then you are not a free individual, and seeking anarchy will do you no good. But if you are a free individual, then take pride and seek the truth. It will always reward you.

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Why should we have to justify anarchy ?

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In all political discussions and debates, it is naturally assumed that anarchists have the burden of proof. After all, anarchy is alien to modern societies and opposed to the overwhelming belief in government, so why shouldn't anarchists have the burden of explaining how their system would work and how it would effect every single thing that governments already do ?

So it becomes an easy thing to throw every single point of detail in the way of an anarchist, hoping to find a question he can't answer. Shotgunning is a lazy way of debating, with no substance and no originality.

However, who really does have the burden of proof ? Well, the basic rule of thumb is that whoever affirms a positive fact about reality (i.e. the existence of something specific) has the initial burden of proof. If the truth of that claim is established, then the negative claim is the one that bears a burden.

Here's an example. Suppose you say that there is a teacup on the dark side of the Moon. This is not an extraordinary claim (the existence of such a teacup would not, for instance, break any laws of physics), but there is no immediate empirical evidence to support it. It is, therefore, an imaginary claim, and should be rejected for lack of evidence. The burden of proof rests on the person who affirms the existence of such a teacup.

Suppose that this teacup was left by previous astronauts, that we have evidence of this prank, and that its presence is empirically demonstrated by another space mission. Now the burden of proof would rest on those who deny the existence of said teacup. The people who made the positive claim can now say that the burden of proof has been fulfilled.

Likewise, anarchy and statism form opposite claims. Statists believe that government is desirable or even necessary, and anarchists reject such a claim. So the question arises - has statism fulfilled its burden of proof ? There are two related means by which a position can be demonstrated. The first is by singular observations, and the second by principles (which subsume a set observations). Statism fails miserably on both fronts.

If statism was desirable, then we should observe in history that nation-states and statist systems in general should be more conductive to life and value-expression than anarchies and anarchic systems. This is not what we observe at all. We see that statist cities, countries and empires have typically been warlike and oppressive, while the few anarchies that have existed and exist today are comparatively less warlike and more progressive.

And if statism was desirable, then we should also observe that the dynamics of statism provide better incentive for social peace and progress than possible anarchic dynamics. Once again, this is not the case. Monarchies, democracies and dictatorships alike all serve the value system of a privileged ruling class and its supporters, not the value systems of the masses. And unlike anarchy, the monopoly of force prevents social and political progress, as any monopoly naturally does.

The premises of statism are immoral and simply not viable. More extreme versions of statism assert that the natural selfishness of man must be suppressed in the name of a non-existent "common good" (which in practice means : the good of the ruling class). Milder forms of statism assert that belief that government is necessary to fulfill functions that private individuals could not fulfill.

Both the extreme and the mild forms of statism are based on the notion of transcendence - that government has a special ontological status that lies above and beyond individual action. Yet this is patent nonsense. There is no "government" that lies above and beyond the actions of the individuals that compose it and their political extension. Once we drop the Special Pleading and look at the reality of government, we can only conclude that it is the most evil and parasitic form of organization ever devised.

As long as the validity of belief in government is not demonstrated, anarchy must be considered the default. It is the statists who need to justify themselves. Statists must be made to account for all the evils that governments are promoting at this very moment. It will simply not do, for example, for statists to fret about the possibility of intestine warfare in anarchy when it is government which made large-scale war possible in the first place.

Every single argument of the statists can be turned against them. And that is the fatal flaw of any attempt at justifying transcendence. However, it does make arguing against government rather easier.

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Not getting it

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Talk about not getting it... from the latest Carnival of the Vanities :

The Radical Libertarian takes to task those who decry people who are said to make too much money. Oh, really? Look at Jeff Bagwell's salary of 19 million and change for riding the bench with a weak shoulder while a guy selling peanuts makes minimum and tips without health care and tell me that isn't unjust.

I'm not a baseball fan, but I'm guessing here that this is part of the standard contract imposed by the league. So what's the point of blaming the guy ?

As for the 19 millions versus the guy who sells peanuts, people value great baseball players far more than they do trading for peanuts. Who are you gonna blame for that ? The baseball player for contributing too much to other people's values, or maybe the peanut seller for contributing too little ?

If he wants to help the peanut seller, maybe this guy should start a campaign dedicated to glorifying the peanut... because he's obviously a nut.

Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Intellectual Property in a Market Anarchic Age

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The question of whether intellectual property really exists as a concept, or reflects flawed premises, is always a contentious issue regardless of one's political worldview.

Opponents of intellectual property invoke the fact that the products of our mind can be thought by someone else without force as an intuitive reason to reject the concept of intellectual property itself. If two people think of a new invention at the same time, and yet only one obtains the patent, how can we say that the patent-holder has any more right to the idea than the other fellow ? There seems to be an inherent problem in that ideas, unlike chairs or widgets, can be created and possessed by more than one person at the same time. It would be silly to refuse to acknowledge the presence of a problem there, if only an intuitive one.

Yet it is also difficult for any consistent advocate of property rights to deny the existence of intellectual property. If the product of our actions is our property when effected with our hands, then how can the product of our minds - the greatest tool that anyone has - not be property as well ? It seems just as intuitive that the text of a novel, or an invention, is a piece of property on par with a chair or widget, and that copying them wholesale is a form of theft.

So it seems that the real problem here is in determining when a formulation is arrived at independently, and if the difficulties in doing so makes the notion of intellectual property impossible to uphold. Furthermore, there is no denying that the patent system and copyright system we have now are damageable, but part of this is no doubt due to its enforcment by the state (the state reserves itself the right to take away your patents whenever it wants them : "what the Lord giveth, he taketh away" indeed).

In looking at the issue of feasibility of anything, we have to turn to the market for possible solution, as markets are the best process we have to harness people's skills to solve problems. And we already do have a partial solution : non-disclosure agreements. Granted, it does not completely solve the problem I described, and does not apply to all domains, but it's a free market solution nevertheless.

First article on Strike the Root

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This is the first time I get an article published on the market anarchist site Strike the Root. Enjoy !

Our Father, Who Art in City Hall...

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Is Fox News Slipping Up?

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I was surprised to see a clip on Fox News in which Gerardo Sandoval, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors expressed his belief that the United States does not need a military.

The exchange took place on Hannity & Colmes on Wednesday, February 15, 2006:,2933,184951,00.html

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: This is Alan in New York. Should we not have military?

SANDOVAL: I don't think we should have a military. Absolutely.

COLMES: We shouldn't have a military? Wait a minute. Hold on. The United States should not have a military?

SANDOVAL: What good has it done for us in the last five years? That's right. What good has it done us...

HANNITY: Good grief.

SANDOVAL: ... in the last five years.

COLMES: Gerardo, wait a second.

SANDOVAL: We think about the billions that we're spending in Iraq right now, if we spend it on schools. We should not...

COLMES: The United States should not have a military?

SANDOVAL: That's correct.

COLMES: Are you kidding me?

SANDOVAL: The United States should not have a military. All in all, we would be in much, much, much better shape.

It is obvious, especially later in the show, that Sandoval advocates many government programs, including public education, public police, and a public coast guard. Regardless, the man deserves credit for realizing that the mere existence of a standing army is a threat to freedom everywhere. Lucky for us, it seems that Sandoval doesn't realize how difficult the tax collection required to fund his social programs might become without the existence of a military.

Monday, April 3, 2006

Class warfare - Confusing the Water with the Hole

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All effective lies have a kernel of truth in them, that makes them so attractive. This is also the case with the communist theory of class warfare.

Communists see the domain of politics as the arena for an eternal battle between "the workers" (people who do not own "means of production") and "the bourgeoisie" (people who own "means of production"). Eventually, or so believe followers of this primitive belief system, capitalism will become intolerable, "the workers" will rise up, slaughter their bourgeois oppressors (as they did so nobly in Russia and China) and use the means of production under their benevolent representant, the omnipotent state. Eventually this omnipotent state will fade away (maybe they get bored or something) and we will all live in a Communist Paradise.

Well, this is a nice fairy tale, but it has nothing to do with reality. There is no magical recipe that can transform human beings into angels. In reality, there does exist a parasitic, oppressive class, but it's not the "bourgeoisie". It is the ruling class - whether kings, dictators, or democratic government.

Typically, people who own more resources do tend to be opposed to the freedom of the masses, because they can influence the power of the state to further their own ends. This can be observed all throughout history, but in our modern societies more specifically as corporate interest groups, campaign financing, corporatist law-making, protectionism and subsidies, and so on.

So we must be careful not to confuse capitalism and corporatism. This is a very common mistake. Corporatism is a system by which economic power can be translated into political power (or its use). In fact, the purest expression of corporatism, is the belief system of Communism, where economic power IS political power. Capitalism, on the other hand, demands that all individuals be equal to the law regardless of their wealth, fame or trade.

The sub-title of this entry is "Confusing the Water with the Hole". What I mean by this, is that we must be careful not to blame the effects of the inherent evil of government on private individuals, such as people who represent corporations. If people exploit the inherent evil of government for their own advantage, we should no doubt recognize them as morally dubious, but we should rightly blame the existence of the incentives purely on the unjustifiable existence of government.

If you have a pipe transporting water, and this pipe is fractured, spilling water, would you blame the water for leaking ? Or would you rather recognize the fracture as a flaw and fix it ? What created the problem - the fracture or the water ?

Now suppose you are extremely powerful, so important for the government that you get it to pass a law for you. The law says that you are allowed to kill as many vagrants and prostitutes as you want. You take this as a go-ahead, grab the nearest gun, and start shooting. Are you personally to blame for your own actions ? Certainly. But would you have had the incentive to kill if the government hadn't passed that law ? Of course not. So even in this extreme example, we would blame you as a criminal, but blame the government first for using its tremendous and unjustified political power to give you that much political power. We would say that, in a free society, such a thing would be unthinkable.

People who own or preside over corporations exploit bad laws all the time, and sometimes lobby for their own. Is that morally reprehensible ? Yes ! Is it corporatism ? Yes ! But should we blame these individuals for choosing such a path ? No, rather we should first blame government, which makes such corporatism possible. Should we blame the corporations who go in third-world countries and exploit their workers, or the third-world dictatorships that allow such exploitation to exist ? The dictatorships first !

Contrary to what the law says, a corporation is not a person. It is composed of individuals, who come to work together because they have common values. They have more resources precisely because they agree to cooperate with each other. There is no coercion in the concept of corporation in and of itself. All coercion begins, and can be traced to, government.

I imagine some statists may argue that I'm arguing that corporations are blameless in the same way that rapists argue that they blameless - because "she deserved it !". Do we deserve the government we have ? No, I don't think anyone deserves government. But more importantly, in this political dynamic we have not one but two evil parties. A better analogy would be to compare government with a kidnapper who supplies a child molester with a completely secret supply of little girls.

In the end, everyone acts on his incentives. That is the only fundamental constant you can rely on in order to understand human behaviour. People do things because they have incentives (internal or external) to do them, and they don't do things because they don't have any incentive to do them. Politicians exploit the masses and serve the rich and powerful, because it's the best way they have to keep and expand their power. The rich and powerful use political power to expand their own wealth and power, because it's the best way they have to do so.

In a free society, incentives are completely changed : because of the absence of political power, it becomes in everyone's interest to trade with others on a non-coercive basis, simply because coercion is too costly. Government, in this perspective, can simply be seen as a machine which, due to its monopoly on force, makes coercion cheap.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Onion satire / Preparing your Children for Democracy

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Have I got some great links for you. First, there's the Onion article "New Poll Finds 86 Percent Of Americans Don't Want To Have A Country Anymore". Blatant anarchist parody on the Onion ? Well, it's the only place where there would be any !

Among the 86 percent of poll respondents who were in favor of discontinuing the nation, the most frequently cited reasons were a lack of significant results from the current democratic process (36 percent), dissatisfaction with customer service (28 percent), and exhaustion (22 percent).

"I don't want to get bogged down in the country anymore," Wilmington, DE accountant Karie Ashworth said. "I'm not up in arms or anything, I'm just saying it'd be a lot easier for everyone if we just gave it up."

And then there's this post on the anti-state forum : "How to teach/prepaire our kids for Democracy".

Conduct random searches of his room in the small hours of the morning. Burst in unannounced. Go through all of his drawers and pockets. If he questions this, tell him you are acting on a tip-off from a mate of his who casually mentioned that you had both earned a bit of spare cash last week. If you find it, confiscate all of that money and also take his stereo and television. Tell him you are selling these and keeping the money to compensate you for having to make the raid. Also lock him in his room for a month as further punishment.

When he cries at the injustice of this, tell him he is being "selfish" and "greedy" and only interested in looking after his own happiness. Explain that he should learn to sacrifice his own happiness for other people and that since he cannot be relied upon or trusted to do this voluntarily, you will use force to ensure he complies. Later in life he will thank you.