There is an old maxim which says "war is the health of the state". Unlike some other maxims, this is entirely accurate. No other method permits more expansion of state power against individual freedom than wars - foreign or internal. Ironically, for an organizational structure supposedly fighting against the evils of addiction, government is in fact hopelessly addicted. It is addicted to wars. The War on Drugs is no exception.
Now marijuana, no doubt, is a fine plant which has many legitimate uses. Being extremely averse to most drugs myself, I have no idea of what it's like to smoke marijuana. I'm sure it's relaxing, conductive to socialization, and so on. The medical facts, anyway, indicate clearly that marijuana is inoffensive and may even be beneficial. The medical facts also indicate that alcohol and tobacco, the two most prominent legal drugs, are the drugs most damageable to human life, even if mortality rates themselves are compared.
As for anything else the state does, there is a utilitarian reason for the War on Drugs to attack only certain drugs and not others. These reasons usually start in deep dark history, in some petty corporate or racial dispute, and the perpetuation of the system is inevitably due to the expansion of powers that it gives the state.
As it turns out, drug policies were motivated by racial disputes. Opium was made illegal because Americans feared the power of Chinese immigration, and cocaine was banned because people feared "cocaine-crazed Negroes". The ban on marijuana was based partly on its use by Mexicans, and was also seen as an alternative to the Prohibition that was going on at the time.
The benefits of war to the warring government include the following : higher taxation, general expansion of power, personal glory to politicians, dissent against the state is temporarily silenced, and the creation of new enemies. We observe this in the history of World War I and II, as well as the current American wars. There is, however, one little problem. These benefits only last as long as the threat is feared. Once the war is over, tax rates somewhat drop, although not as low as they were before the war, tbe expansion of power is stopped, and dissent returns.
This is why the state also uses perpetual wars. A perpetual war is a war whose victory conditions are unattainable, usually because the goal is a nebulous concept or for whose opposite there will always be a demand (such as "poverty", "terrorism" or "drugs"). The War on Drugs is one such perpetual war. It is an unwinnable war constructed in order to prop up the state's expansion of power.
Perpetual wars are the state's "high". And when a government gets the munchies, it does not eat chips - but rather human lives and livelihoods.
Remember the maxim ? Its reverse is also true - "the state is the health of war". Without the state, the War on Drugs would likely dissipate. Private individuals would have no incentive to pay for jail space for "victimless crimes", and the lack of strong support for the Drug War would make its persistence unlikely. Furthermore, private individuals would desire the drop in violence that would follow decriminalization, while governments have no such incentive.
Monday, January 30, 2006
There is an old maxim which says "war is the health of the state". Unlike some other maxims, this is entirely accurate. No other method permits more expansion of state power against individual freedom than wars - foreign or internal. Ironically, for an organizational structure supposedly fighting against the evils of addiction, government is in fact hopelessly addicted. It is addicted to wars. The War on Drugs is no exception.
Two interesting studies for you to look at :
1. Clifford F. Thies, back in September, posted an article on Mises.org proving that cities where people vote liberal the most are also cities with the most criminality, unemployment, and population exodus. Here is the proof.
Being an anarchist, I don't think this proves anything except that both liberalism and conservatism are bankrupt belief systems in ways that are perhaps more different than supposed.
2. A new study on private and public funding of science proves that private funding reaps more important scientific papers than public funding. Tyler Cowen argues that this probably means a lot less than one might think, but it's still an interesting and novel indictment of government.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Are employees "exploited" by being given far less than they produce ? Economist Scott Larsen doesn't think so :
GE's 1997 sales were $90.84 Billion, had after tax profits of $8.2 billion and had 276,000 employees. Sales-per-employee was an amazing $329,120/employee. (...) Most other companies come in below $200,000/employee. The after tax profit per General Electric employee is $29,721/employee. Even if the worst paid employee were to get $11/hr plus 30% benefits, the total compensation package is $28,600/year.
You hear about the fallacy of "price gouging", but the people over at Division of Labout ask, why aren't people talking about "wage gouging" ?
A natural disaster has caused suppliers of labor to charge more for an hour of work than they did before the disaster. If this were gas--or even the Burger King that is hiring the now more expensive workers--there would be howls of "price gouging." If charging $5 for a gallon of gas is "unbridled greed" then isn't demanding a $6,000 signing bonus? That many people view these scenarios differently indicates the real issue here is anti-capitalist animus.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Okay, if you didn't get it the first time, let me repeat again : anarchy is not an economic position. Anarchy is simply lack of government. Anarchy is not incompatible with capitalism, or communism, or any other economic system.
Go read the front page of Simply Anarchy and then come back.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Reading the latest topic of the 9cast Carnival, I was caught in a quandary. This topic is : "U.S Education system: State, Federal or Parental control?". Unfortunately, I am an anarchist who is also against parenting, so I can't choose any of these ! And I'm not American either, so I don't particularly care what the American education system is like (although according to John Stossel, it's pretty bad compared to other developed countries).
So I'm going to have to look at this from a slightly different angle, and that is the role that the education system plays in the maintenance of government and statist belief systems.
Parts of the government, like parts of any other collectivist system, serve three main utilitarian roles : to make the system seem useful and necessary, to provide another area where government can use its power and create more social warfare, and to divert the flow of resources and the values of private individuals into supporting the apparatus of government.
Public education, and the educational system in general, is no exception to this rule :
1. It makes government seem useful and necessary - when government coercion is in fact the least efficient and useful method there is.
2. It creates another area - what to teach our children - where government creates social warfare (as the continuing saga of "Intelligent Design" continues to demonstrate).
3. It indoctrinates the children in whatever statist ideology is prevalent at the time. There is, of course, no interest in teaching children vital topics like basic economics or critical thinking when they can be indoctrinated through a patriotic rehashing of history, religious classes, or utilitarian bullshit.
Like all government systems, public education also discriminates against the masses. Private schooling has been shown to be better for the poor (in countries like India, Brazil and Argentina), and charter schools have also been shown as a superior alternative.
Finally, the educational system gives children their first taste of social warfare. I am writing this as elections are looming in Canada, and students' unions are putting out ads on television demanding more public money for schools (from who ? and how ? blank). This ad is of course paid for by various unsavory unions and organizations which would benefit from a stronger public education system. Teenagers protest without thinking and feel like they are being good little citizens, a nice echo to their later years when they will protest without thinking and feel like they are being good little citizens.
What about homeschooling ? It is difficult to argue with the empirical evidence of its greater efficacy, as well as the fact that parents will devote more time to their own children than teachers would. However, it is also a wonderful opportunity for fanatic parents to brainwash their children in their belief system and surround them with it, which they do in droves. So homeschooling is extremely dangerous for the social fabric, and is probably not worth the added efficacy.
Here is a new site I've been working on : Simply Anarchy.
My basic impetus for making the site is :
1. To explain how simple and moral anarchy is.
2. To have a one-stop site for anarchists (especially anarcho-capitalists, since that's all the stuff I have) to read studies and serious articles about historical cases, about the evils of government and the facts of anarchy.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
"Gandalf" on the anti-state forum offers one way to get out of jury duty :
About 8 years ago I received a jury duty notice in the mail. Following the advice of several of my friends, I indicated on the return card that I was not a U.S. Citizen. A week later, a card came in the mail indicating that I was excused from jury duty because of not being a U.S. Citizen.
Does it really work ? I'll have to remember that.
Osama Bin Laden offers a truce :
We don't mind offering you a long-term truce on fair conditions that we adhere to. We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war. There is no shame in this solution, which prevents the wasting of billions of dollars that have gone to those with influence and merchants of war in America who have supported Bush's election campaign with billions of dollars - which lets us understand the insistence by Bush and his gang to carry on with war.
If you (Americans) are sincere in your desire for peace and security, we have answered you.
As a deal from one terrorist to another, that sounds like a pretty good deal. Of course, the imperialist warhawks are going to answer that they don't negociate with terrorists. And yet we are forced to negociate with government every day. Talk about hypocrisy.
Osama's goal with 9-11 was to drag the United States into a long war that would sink it economically. Although it didn't have that big of an impact, the War on Terrorism is certainly a big weight on the American budget, so mission accomplished so far. The United States went at war with the intention of spreading its economic imperialism, and bringing the democratic plague to the Middle East so it can put its puppets at the head of Afghanistan and Iraq. Mission accomplished so far. I'd say both terrorists have accomplished their objectives. A rousing success.
Even though slavery is over in most parts of the world, there are still millions still wearing slave chains around the world, even in Western Civilization. They are just chains of a different kind of slavery, not political, but religious. And they give rise to social controversy.
Every religion has them, but some are worse than others. On the one hand, you have your chadors and burkas, which basically completely dehumanize women and makes them chattel. You've also got your nun costume. On the other hand, you've got your "empowerment" baubles like the cross of the Christian, the Sikh's knife, and the Jew's yarmulke.
Whether voluntary or coerced, these items are used to brand the individual to a religion, to override individuality and equate its identity with that of the religion. The bauble becomes a symbol of double religious dominance - the dominance of the religion over the person, and of the religion over the rest of society.
With the cultural war turning up the heat in Europe, formerly open countries are becoming more and more intolerent of the baubles. France especially has taken steps to ban them. Is this a reasonable attitude ?
For one thing, you have to consider that a lot of the flak comes from their use in schools. Schools are special environments which must be conductive to learning (not learning individualism or critical thinking, mind you, which would be a lot more helpful, but there you go). Dress codes, including against baubles, are defendable regardless of belief system or political position.
What about women who wear chadors in the street ? The issue of identification of criminals for law enforcment has been raised. Now I think that is not a very good argument. We might as well ban ski masks, for all the good that would do.
You can always ask someone to remove their chador to be identified, just as you would with someone wearing a ski mask. Chadors don't hide nearly as much of someone as a ski mask. Now you could make the case with a burka, maybe, but that's an extreme example.
Now when a society is freed from the Sharia or other religious restrictions, or when people move to a Western country, most people stop wearing their baubles. But some will still do it out of compulsion or brainwashing. It's easy to see banning such things as forcing liberation on these people, but I think that's a facile answer. All you're doing is the equivalent of censorship : fanning the flames of their already strong persecution complex, and creating a victimless crime. People who are brainwashed into seeing their religion as sole moral refuge will only be distressed when you try to take their blankie away. It's just bad all around for social harmony in the end.
The main problem is to free people's personal values first. Then, if they still decide to wear their baubles, it's a bizarre fashion statement, not an expression of an enslaved mind. It would ease my mind if that was the case. I would still find such baubles morally wrong, but I wouldn't be distressed by them. I would just see yet another creative weirdo. Maybe some feminist wacko would come up with the idea that the burka represents women's mediatic alienation from the world because of their beauty, or some shit like that. Then we could just have a big laugh at their expense. But you don't laugh at religious missiles.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
It is a widely accepted myth that anarchy is incompatible with capitalism. Even an encyclopedia like Wikipedia states :
There is significant variance between the philosophies of different individualist anarchists. Almost all, following Proudhon, support individual ownership of the particular form of private property he referred to as "possession". (...) However, what these philosophers all have in common is a rejection of both capitalist economics and collectivist notions of society and a pronounced focus on individuality.
Ever since I deconverted to anarchism, I have noticed the widespread existence of this myth. I hope this entry will help dispel it.
First of all, anarchy and capitalism do not pertain to the same thing at all.
Capitalism is a positive ideology - it states what economic system should exist. Strictly defined, capitalism is a system where resources are owned by individuals instead of the government, and where these resources circulate in free markets. Capitalism is based on voluntary action, instead of government coercion or individual force.
Anarchy, on the other hand, is a negative position - no-government. It merely states that government should not exist. This does not indicate what system will indeed exist in an anarchic society, which is why many anarchists label themselves further (such as anarcho-syndicalist or anarcho-capitalist). In an anarchy, people can assemble in any economic system they desire - socialism, capitalism, syndicalism, whatever they desire. But they will also have to face the relative degrees of success of each, something that statist believers definitely do not want.
One property that both capitalism and anarchy share is tolerence for the variety of value systems that exists in any society. In a capitalist system, people are free to express their values, through consumer preference, in any way they want. Anarchy is simply an extension of this principle, because government is the single organization that restricts value-expression the most, by imposing a single value system on the population of an entire territory by force. In an anarchy, the individual not only has consumer preferences, but political preferences as well.
Another related property of both is that they are about individual choice. Government does not enforce values on you (statism/socialism), other people cannot enforce their values on you (democracy/syndicalism), you are truly free to make choices for your own life.
One objection that is raised against this analysis, is that capitalism depends on government to exist. This is usually based on the perennial confusion between corporatism (state capitalism) and capitalism, which are very different concepts. Corporatism - the statist belief that leaders of corporations should exploit political power for their own gain - is definitely incompatible with anarchy. However capitalism, which is based on voluntary action, is not harmonious with government, which is based on coercion, but rather with anarchy, which is based on voluntary action. And we observe in practice that strong governments, with very few exceptions, seek to control more and more of any given economy, eventually completely consuming it.
Certainly it would be difficult for a capitalist system to exist without some form of organizational contractual enforcment (although of course personal enforcment is inherent). Black markets, which are trade systems that evade enforcment (at least of the government kind), are extremely costly and unsafe. However, anarchy is perfectly compatible with private forms of contractual enforcment, so markets in an anarchy would be far safer and have less overhead than black markets.
So it appears that there is in fact no contradiction between anarchy and capitalism. And since capitalism is the natural state of man (insofar as most people are peaceful and desire to cooperate in order to raise their standard of living), an anarchic economy is most likely to evolve into some form of capitalism. Collectivists, who believe that man is too selfish and degraded for freedom, would complain just as loudly as they do today about progress and the expression of individual values, but we would still point and laugh at them. Because there are always people who are just plain stupid.
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
[M]ost politicians, economists and journalists act is if growth is a mirage and wealth is zero sum. What else accounts for today’s headlines screaming GM’s cut of 30,000 jobs? Does the creation of 30,000 jobs get equal treatment? Why not? That’s about how many jobs are born every week in the United States.
What causes some to take the zero-sum view?
Politicians, even the best and brightest, I think, become zero-sum thinkers over time because they occupy a zero-sum world. Only one person can be U.S. president. Only 50 can be governors. Only 100 can be Senators. The most creative entrepreneur in the world can’t change these facts. Politicians live in a world where one person’s gain is another’s loss.
Journalists at MSM organizations also live in a zero-sum world. There can be only one evening TV anchor, one top editor at a newspaper or magazine, a fixed number of columnists on the op-ed page . . . and thus the MSM puts out alarming stories about GM job cuts, trade and fiscal deficits, global warming, oil going to $100 a barrel and so on. Why does the MSM love environmentalists? Both share a zero-sum view of the world.
Two would-be assassins take shots at their intended victims. One hits and is guilty of murder. The other misses and is guilty of attempted murder—a crime, but a less serious one. And, legal distinctions aside, most of us will see the successful murderer as morally tainted by his act—a taint that his failed colleague, by pure chance, escaped.
Why the difference? Being a bad shot is not a moral virtue.
Both excellent points.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
(also posted on Goosing the Antithesis)
One thing I did not mention in my article "How to Preach Libertarianism" is how to use the Moral Razor. Although I'd like to lay claim to it, the Moral Razor is not my invention. It is the work of Stefan Molyneux, writer for LewRockwell.com and blogger at Freedomain. I have only clarified and formalized his ideas on the topic.
The most famous razor in philosophy is no doubt Occam's Razor, which states that, when confronted with two hypotheses that explain the same set of facts, the ontologically simplest hypothesis is the correct one. In general, a razor is a simple and clear principle which eliminates a great number of invalid or undesirable positions. Occam's Razor is a simple and clear principle which eliminates a great number of pseudo-scientific beliefs and religious fantasies. Its justification lies in the nature of objective evidence.
The Moral Razor operates in the same way. Its justification lies in the fact that moral principles must apply to all persons, otherwise they are mere cultural belief or opinion. We observe that all persons have the same biological, mental and social needs, and that therefore any moral principle which purports to judge the actions of some people differently than the actions of others, or to elevate the values of some against others, must be invalid.
The Moral Razor is this :
A moral principle or system, or a political principle or system, is invalid if it is asymmetrical in application (to locations, times or persons).
This is easily seen to eliminate large swarths of moral systems. All forms of moral relativism are automatically eliminated, as they are based on the premise that moral judgment somehow differs from person to person or from culture to culture. So are all forms of utilitarianism (including democracy) eliminated, because they imply that the values of the majority are superior to those of the minority, with subsequent assymetry of action.
Collectivist worldviews, such as religions, with their sacrifice of individualism in the name of a higher ideal, are also threatened by the Razor. One saliant feature of such worldviews is the strict adherence to a moral system which is usually memetically utilitarian in nature. But this is an inherent asymmetry, and a rational Christian (if there was such a chimera) would be in his right to ask why he is to be considered good only when he follows a set of - to him - arbitrary rules, when only a small subset of people actually benefit from his obedience. And there is also the pesky little problem of believing in an entire moral system ostensibly because it is designed by an all-powerful being, and the inherent asymmetry in this moral master/slave relationship.
Obviously, universality is necessarily egalitarian. And egalitarianism is necessarily individualist. They all go together like glove and hand. The individual can only flourish in a social and political context where everyone is allowed to flourish, and such a context can only exist if everyone is equal under morality and the law. You cannot dissociate the two.
It's not surprising that the most murderous social systems, the most collectivist societies, those of communism and nazism, are predicated upon a strong ruling class that exerts both economic and ideological control. There is nothing less conductive to religion and politics than the firm conviction that everyone should be equally free to express his own values.
The Razor, in its initial form, also applies to a great deal of public policy. Often, the only reason for their perceived universality is the failure to consider where the benefits are going as well as the costs. Take taxation, for example. True, everyone has to pay taxes, but only the ruling class is free to accumulate and use tax money - under utilitarian considerations, as for any other collectivist system. So taxation is asymmetrical.
One easy way to figure out assymetry is to ask whether anyone can act in the same way. No other citizen can raise his own police and force people at gunpoint to pay them tribute (except perhaps the mafia, but they have to contend with the government's guns). The same applies to policies such as eminent domain, censorship, and other governmental initiations of force. If the government does not open itself to the same restrictions, then the policy is necessarily asymmetrical (compare for example victim disarmament and growth in military spending).
There is one exception, and that is when we are looking at scenarios where a valid rule was already broken. Arresting someone when no crime was committed is asymmetrical, but arresting someone who initiated force is a different scenario. In this case we are looking not at a political principle - which is what the Razor is about - but rather at the consequence of breaking such a principle. In that case I would argue that, as long as no other asymmetry is present, singling out initiators of force should not be seen as breaking the Razor a priori.
This leads us to the other use of the Razor, which is the relational level. Here we're looking not at the application of a moral principle, but rather at the relational results. Suppose we say, for example, "theft is universally good". This is problematic since theft is a relational asymmetry : the right of property of the thief subsists (otherwise he would not be a thief at all but rather a hired goon, for one thing), but that of the victim is taken away, creating a contradiction.
We can generalize this idea and say that all coercion implies relational asymmetry, as coercion implies the existence of a perpetrator and a victim, with inherent asymmetry contained therein. So we can say the following :
All moral or political principles based on coercion have relational asymmetry, and therefore imply contradictions in rights.
Since there are only two basic relational modes, coercive and voluntary (the Trader Principle), we see that this principle eliminates a great deal of principles and ideologies as well. The Trader Principle, on the other hand, is inherently symmetrical : everyone gives and receives value at all times. Gift-giving is not an exception to this rule, but rather a confirmation of it, as the gift-giver sees self-interest in doing so. For some people, giving gifts is even more pleasurable than receiving them. If someone is acting of his own free will, then he necessarily sees benefit in his actions, and the Trader Principle cannot be violated.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Ladies and gentlemen, forget about the World's Smallest Political Quiz. Here is the World's Shortest Political Quiz !
George Bush has officially ended your freedom of speech on the Internet if you're an American. Yep, this is no joke :
Create an e-annoyance, go to jail
It's no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.
In other words, it's OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.
This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.
"The use of the word 'annoy' is particularly problematic," says Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's annoying to one person may not be annoying to someone else."
If there is anything that needs to be understood about government, it's that government is parasitic in nature. Its main tool is force, and its main role is to impose a single value system on everyone - the value system of the ruling class.
The bigger governments are, therefore, the more uniform the imposition of values becomes. This makes "global government" a gigantic problem for individualism. If you have a large set of small parasites, each with slighly different values (depending on the prevalent culture and beliefs), you are still relatively free to choose which parasite to live under. But if everyone lives under the same giant parasite, which, due to concentration of power, has its potential for utilitarian exploitation of the masses magnified tenfold, then there is no more choice.
There is no doubt in my mind that a global government would be a disaster of a magnitude greater than the Dark Ages, where at least one could try to escape religious persecution, as profoundly anchored in people's beliefs as it was.
Now, we must be careful not to confuse global governance with political unions. The European Union, for example, is not a global government because countries still retain their legal autonomy to a large part. But like all global parasites, it will strive to expand its powers without end.
Are there any disadvantages to governments occupying smaller territories ? Certainly. For one thing, a government occupying an area of a few thousand square meters would generate incredible overhead (right now only municipal levels occupy such small territories). Another problem is that a concentrated government rules over a smaller subset of value systems than a global one. Variety of opinions has a somewhat healthy influence on the consilience of government towards differing views. But if a government rules over an area where there is little variety of opinion, then there will be less tolerence for differing views.
However, this tolerence also has the opposite effect. Parents are allowed, in the name of "religious tolerence", to brainwash their children into evil, degrading and anti-scientific belief systems (Amish communities, fundamentalist Christian homeschooling, religious schools). So government is not a solution to the problem - all it does is provide a different justification for the imposition of value systems.
Fortunately, global governance is not in the cards any time soon. People are still too attached to their country and patriotism to submit to a global authority. This is one exception where general stupidity prevents a greater evil. However, if the current trend of rejecting religious beliefs in favour of political beliefs continues, I have no doubt that it will eventually come to that.
Friday, January 13, 2006
SinceSlicedBread.com has a contest right now, where you can vote to determine the best ideas to change society. Most of it is socialist pap, but three or four of these actually have some potential. So get up there and vote !
Reason Magazine published a list of libertarian themes in children’s fiction. There are some interesting books in there if you need gift ideas.
During the last 12 years, two popular, critically acclaimed authors have written series that combine the familiar themes of rebellion and coming of age with some of the most subversive story lines seen in juvenile fiction. The novels of Lois Lowry, 68, and Margaret Peterson Haddix, 41, are thoroughly skeptical of the idea that the state should be an all-powerful benefactor. They have gained a large and loyal following, striking a receptive chord in a market not normally associated with anti-government themes.
Organized irresponsibility is prevalent in our society, whether political, corporate or social. Not that I mean that people themselves are irresponsible (although in many causes they are), but rather that responsibility is displaced because of organization. We have, for instance, the concept of "corporate personhood", which is absolutely absurd and serves only the goal of shielding people (especially CEOs and stockholders in big companies) from responsibility.
This leads to people being accused of the crimes of others who worked for the same company or organization. This kind of thinking, pushed to the extreme, has led to things such as demands for "reparation" by racially-motivated organizations, when in modern times there are no remaining victims or criminals to pay off or get money from. This is allowed to exist because of the victimocrat context - as a group of "victims", one must consider others as "the enemy" even if the reason for such labels is long gone, because the group identity depends on it.
The concept of organized irresponsibility in general, has more profound and grave consequences. This is reflected in the good old excuse of "just following orders". People think that, because an action was sanctioned by the organization, responsibility must be suspended. It's also hard to stand up and refuse to act within a culture that cultivates organizational irresponsibility.
One factor that must contribute to this irresponsibility is the natural human instinct to obey figures of authority. The person is then left to rationalize for himself the actions he has committed under this impulse. It's easy to rationalize that "they know best" and "it's not my business". The Nazis have proven that genocide can be committed on such a basis. So has organized religion, in the name of the "supreme authority". In either case, the source of all evil is the refusal to recognize one's own values and act on them. This is the antithesis of individuality.
To have a society based on justice and individualism, it would be necessary to start making people account for their own actions, even if they are part of an organizational process. This would force people to think about their actions and assume responsibility for them. I think this would also restore a lot of individualism in our society.
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
After listening to Stefan Molyneux's arguments and mulling them over, I have decided that my previous belief in a limited government as ideal was misguided. I also agree that anarchy, like atheism, is the only reasonable individualist position to take in order to affirm his personal values and try to improve society.
More specifically, I now classify myself as an anarcho-monarchist.
There have been many societies that existed as ordered anarchies for centuries. Examples : medieval Ireland and Iceland, the American Old West, the Papuans, Labrador and pre-Alfred Anglo-Saxon England.
Back to the blog in progress.
When discussing the question of war, it's easy to get mired in the self-righteousness of the warhawk and the flaccid protests of the pacifist. As in many other issues, worthless emotional impressions crowd out our conceptual thinking. In such cases, it is most useful to come back to basic moral principles. So let me state the moral facts plainly :
* War is organized murder, and thus immoral.
* War is also immoral because it favours the amplification of other evils (such as taxation, the police state, the draft). War is the health of state oppression.
* The capacity to declare and wage war is only given to some people and not others, making it invalid as a universal moral rule.
* The capacity to wage war is, like any other government power, manipulated for political interests. And I am not even going to start on the fascistic American imperialism, sponsored by ExxonMobil, Haliburton and Bechtel. Many, many people have written on this better than I ever could.
* War leads to evil consequences (this is merely a corollary of the first point).
Once we drop the collectivist delusion that politicians and bureaucrats are morally transcendent to private citizens, and transpose their actions in a realistic context, war looks less like the noble sacrifice portrayed by popular culture and more like thuggery and assassination on a global scale. The murder of innocents, the acts of torture, the hardships inflicted on civilians, then appear not as regrettable exceptions but as an expected corollary of the premise of unjust and unrestrained violence.
There is no such thing as a "just war", any more than there is such a thing as a "just gang war" or a "just mafia hit". The main difference between the two scenarios is that government commands the monopoly of force as well as virtually unlimited material resources (through taxation), and its existence is not predicated on the existence of specific laws, and thus it is infinitely more dangerous.
As the history of the 20th century has taught us, war does not have to be physical. The relatively novel idea of perpetual war has provided tremendous impetus for state growth without the need for messy conflict. Thus were born the Cold War, the War on Drugs, the War on Poverty, the War on Terror, and all sorts of other wars that are fought by diverting more and more resources into useless government institutions build for that sole purpose, and inevitably only exacerbate the very problems they were supposedly set up to solve.
Why does the concept of war command so much inherent support ? War is a popular film topic because it evokes primal emotions : nationalism, violence and xenophobia. On a more intellectual level, the importance of war demands a total commitment. People accept horrible restrictions on their freedom in wartime that they would reject at any other time. So war is a perfect device to put people in a constant mindset of obedience.
Monday, January 9, 2006
A state senator wants to force Missouri stores to sell warm beer. Under a bill by Sen. Bill Alter, grocery and convenience stores would risk losing their liquor licenses if they sold beer colder than 60 degrees. The intent is to cut down on drunken driving by making it less tempting to pop open a beer after leaving the store.
He said the idea came from a fifth-grade student in Jefferson County who was participating in a program to teach elementary students about state government. He sought their suggestions for new laws and chose the cold beer ban from a list of the top three ideas.
Never let it be said that making up imbecilic laws is child's play...
Matt Ridley on government
In all times and in all places there has been too much government. We now know what prosperity is: it is the gradual extension of the division of labour through the free exchange of goods and ideas, and the consequent introduction of efficiencies by the invention of new technologies. This is the process that has given us health, wealth and wisdom on a scale unimagined by our ancestors. It not only raises material standards of living, it also fuels social integration, fairness and charity. It has never failed yet. No society has grown poorer or more unequal through trade, exchange and invention. Think of pre-Ming as opposed to Ming China, seventeenth century Holland as opposed to imperial Spain, eighteenth century England as opposed to Louis XIV's France, twentieth century America as opposed to Stalin's Russia, or post-war Japan, Hong Kong and Korea as opposed to Ghana, Cuba and Argentina. Think of the Phoenicians as opposed to the Egyptians, Athens as opposed to Sparta, the Hanseatic League as opposed to the Roman Empire. In every case, weak or decentralised government, but strong free trade led to surges in prosperity for all, whereas strong, central government led to parasitic, tax-fed officialdom, a stifling of innovation, relative economic decline and usually war.
Take Rome. It prospered because it was a free trade zone. But it repeatedly invested the proceeds of that prosperity in too much government and so wasted it in luxury, war, gladiators and public monuments. The Roman empire's list of innovations is derisory, even compared with that of the 'dark ages' that followed.
I have two great articles from two great bloggers for you today. First, Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution has a sound theory on why third-world countries have currency crises, and why governments in the third-world have no interest in maintaining a sound currency :
The country as a whole is poorer, if only because the currency collapse disrupts economic activity. The first class of asset holders [representing the poor citizens of a third-world country] is much poorer and many are wiped out altogether. Non-tradeables are oriented ever more toward wealthy, sophisticated demanders. Culture will boom, non-shippable foods will improve in quality, and perhaps the women will become more beautiful. Relatively wealthy vacationers will find that this place is just right for them. Yet the streets will have more litter and there will be more beggars than before.
This is no conspiracy theory, but it does explain why we do not see greater domestic pressures for fiscal stability.
As I said before, so much for the "it's not their fault" theory of foreign aid. Also yet another way in which government hurts the poor.
Will Wilkinson, at the Fly Bottle, thinks that people's craving for status can co-exist with a peaceful society, as long as we get government out of it :
The obvious point to make about status, then, is that it is domain relative, and that the number of domains does not seem to be fixed. (My example may tempt you you to confuse status for fame. Don’t.) One of my favorite documentaries, Word Wars, goes inside the fascinating world of competitive Scrabble players. Naturally, this being a human endeavor, there is a ladder of status among Scrabble players, and for the people who devote their live and energy to the game, this is the kind of status that matters. Now, it may seem to you that Peyton Manning is a bigger deal than Joe Edley, but it doesn’t seem that way to Joe Edley.
So what to we do about the fact that people are status-seeking? What we do is encourage a decentralized entrepreneurial culture where status domains without number may bloom. Where the president of the Tuscon YMCA, the world’s Scrabble champion, Tony Hawk, the best fusion jazz guitarist in Miami, and the first and only audio/olfactory immersive ambient concept assemeblagist can sleep sweet dreams, secure in their well-deserved status.
Sunday, January 8, 2006
The new TV show "inJustice" is something that all individualists should watch. In this show, a small group of investigators look into doubtful convictions and find out how the imprisoned person was railroaded into a guilty verdict, and what they didn't look at in their investigations. This show clearly shows how the police and justice systems are utilitarian tools of the state (like anything else that is co-opted by the state), and that without accountability there can never be "law and order". It exposes the lies perpetuated by the media that the justice system and the police are "searchers for the truth".
Also check the documentary "Capturing the Friedmen", which is just one real-life horror story out of millions.
Saturday, January 7, 2006
Libertarianism has, for all intents and purposes, failed. It's been eighty years since Von Mises published his seminal Socialism, which predicted the flaws and eventual fall of communist nations. Proof has been given again and again that libertarianism is the only correct way to understand political and social relationships - by economic studies, by the utilitarian actions of the ruling class, by conceptual understanding.
And yet, libertarian ideas are unanimously rejected by anyone outside of the economic academia and a very small circle of individualists.
Furthermore, consider that everyone understands that politicians are corrupt, that government is inefficient and twisted, that government institutions are bloated and have no incentive to accomodate demand, and that even the basic functions of government - the police, the military, the justice system - need profound reform... and yet they still ardently believe that government is moral and that democracy is righteous, enough to go out and vote even though they know that their vote is worthless.
Why is that ? The answer is that morality runs the world. Arguments of efficacy, however numerous or powerful, cannot convince someone who earnestly believes that he is morally right. This belief can overcome the most atrocious facts - genocide, mass murder, racist hatred - as the belief systems of Christianity, Islam, Nazism and Communism have demonstrated in the past. Once moral concerns are pushed aside in the name of the moral superiority of one's belief system, then a man can have no qualms in committing the worst atrocities. What would his personal values matter if he diligently obeys a belief system which he believes has absolute moral standing ?
The way to preach any position, including libertarianism, is to show that it is morally right and that its opponents are morally wrong. I know many people are afraid to point out moral facts - that they assume collectivist systems do indeed have the moral high ground and that no one could ever say otherwise, or that to be "fair" we should not question the morality of our opponents, but rather give them a fair evidential hearing.
This approach has never led anywhere. The opponents of slavery did not argue on grounds of efficacy, or give their opponents the benefit of the doubt on moral standing. They did not try to pacify slavers. They did not argue that stopping slavery would raise economic efficiency by that much, or help the enslaved by this much. They reiterated again and again that slavery was morally wrong, until enough people broke from their belief systems and realized that this was indeed correct.
So how do we win the political moral debate ?
* By presenting natural moral assumptions and how collectivists break those assumptions.
(Everyone agrees that war is wrong / Taxes give government the power to wage war to bolster their own power / Taxes are morally wrong)
* By talking about the immorality of belief or collectivism itself.
(To believe in a political ideology just because you were raised in it is morally wrong)
* By practical moral comparisons.
(Politically unfree countries are the most corrupt - the most warmongering - the least safe - the most cutthroat)
In all cases, in trying to deconvert someone, one must never get bogged down in details of evidence, always keep in mind and come back to the basic points : government is morally wrong, political power is morally wrong, taxation is morally wrong, democracy is morally wrong.
(Now of course if you were seriously debating someone or writing an article for your fellow libertarians, you would want to talk about evidence, but a debate is not a debunking - both serve different purposes)
Here are some examples :
Q: Capitalism is bad.
A: It's moral for people to produce resources and make them available to other people. It's immoral for government to prevent that and take those resources to feed itself. Government is morally wrong.
Q: Wal-Mart is bad.
A: Wal-Mart makes stuff available to people who could not afford them otherwise. Wal-Mart commerce is moral. People who oppose Wal-Mart are against the poor and don't want resources to be available to everyone. People who oppose Wal-Mart are immoral.
Q: Government is necessary.
A: In a free society, people want to trade with each other and provide useful products. We can cooperate to provide necessary things to each other. Government does not produce anything. Government takes from society, fulfills its own needs, and uses force to impose those needs on everyone. Government is morally wrong.
Government is a win-lose system (govt does not produce anything, so whatever it gives you is taken from someone else). Libertarianism is a win-win system.
Q: Taxes are needed to maintain society.
A: Taxes are immoral because they give government power to control your life and gives it the power to make war. Taking taxes down is moral because it reduces the power of government, which hurts everyone and corrupts society. It's not moral for any group of people to steal.
Q: Democracy is the best system.
A: Hurting people is immoral, even if most people agree. Might does not make right. Civil disobedience is noble. Democracy is vile.
Democracy lets popular ideologies and beliefs, the rich, and the powerful control government, because they can give politicians more money and support than others. Democracy is not the government of the people : it is inherently elitist. The individual's vote is worthless. Democracy is anti-individualist and morally wrong.
Q: I understand that government is coercive, but I don't care.
You are willing to use violence to solve social problems. That is immoral, and makes you immoral. You are no different than a terrorist who wants to kill people of a different race or religion to solve political problems.
In all cases, keep your replies as close to the moral arguments as possible. Never concede any moral ground to your opponents. Statism is morally bankrupt and only by pointing this out will we succeed.
Thursday, January 5, 2006
In Today's Los Angeles Times, there is an article that says that "The Governator" wants to expand toll road use in California. So far so good right? Well, a little further into the article it says that Californians have always been very turned off by the idea of toll roads. I could only shake my head in disappointment.
Californians are generally very turned off by the idea of toll roads. Californians don't want to feel like they are paying money every time they drive on a road. The problem here is that Californians have a perception problem. To a Californian, if they aren't paying for the road directly, then they aren't paying for the road at all. Of course, this is totally untrue. Californians pay for all their roads 100% of the time. The difference is that Californians usually pay for their roads indirectly through taxes, so they don't notice that they are actually paying for the roads.
At this point I want to let out a little disclaimer: The toll roads that the Governator is proposing would not be privately owned roads, but publicly owned toll roads. So he isn't really being that libertarian, but merely having a toll road is still a step in the right direction. And for the sake of argument, in this article I am going to discuss the Governator's toll road concept as if it were a private toll road idea.
Imagine a toll road only world, where no roads were public and every road you drove on you had to pay for using it. Cringing, are you? Before you jump to conclusions, consider this: There are no public gas stations; all gas stations are private "toll" stations. There are no public auto repair shops (at least none that the private citizen can use); all auto repair shops are private "toll" repair shops.
Would you rather have gasoline and auto repair that you didn’t have to pay for when you received it, but instead paid for it in advance through taxation? Because that is what we are doing right now with our public roads. We pay for public roads indirectly through taxes, rather than pay for them directly through tolls. And as any Californian knows, public roads are a major issue. Roads in California are in a state of disrepair, with a huge backlog of work and repaving that needs to be done. The State can't keep up with road deterioration, nor with congestion.
Californians cringe every time they hear the word "toll." This is a shame, because if you think about it, "toll" is just another way of saying "free market." And the free market has been so thoroughly embraced by Californians that we have managed to get our mere state to be ranked as the 6th largest economy in the world! That's right folks: my home state competes as if it were one of the top ten actual countries of the world.
Undoubtedly, the free market has been very, very good to California. So why do Californians not embrace a toll road system? Ignorance, that's why.
Think about it: When gas prices went soaring, Californians started talking about price caps. Ignorance. When health insurance prices went soaring, Californians started talking about increasing government health programs. Ignorance. When energy prices soared, Californians blamed deregulation instead of legislation. Ignorance.
Californians know far too little about the free market system that has transformed their precious state into a global economic powerhouse. Californians also know far too little about taxes, and about the differences between public and private resources. The fact that most Californians think that public roads are "free" while toll roads are not, exposes the depth of their ignorance. Systems of indirect payment, like public health care and public roadways, have an advantage in that the user of these systems feels like the services are free when they are used. It feels to me like using the freeway is truly free every time I drive on it, because I don't pay any money when I drive up the on-ramp. But of course, I am paying for those roads and I am paying for that healthcare. It's just that I pay for it indirectly through the taxes out of my paycheck.
Awareness of this misconception is key, I think, to correcting people's aversion to private economic systems such as toll roads. People have to be made aware that they are usually paying more for services through an indirect public system than they would if they paid directly through a private system.
Imagine if Californians were given a bill to vote on where, if passed, the bill would make every Californian split the cost of all gasoline consumed in the state through a public gasoline tax system. The bill would say that all gasoline consumed in California would be tallied up, and then the cost would be split through the taxing of every Californian's paycheck. Californians would howl in rage at the bill and it would be shot down quicker than the Governator's propositions in his recent special election! So if it's obvious that Californians wouldn't support a public gas-tax payment system, then why do they want to stick to the one already in place for the roadways? Again, ignorance. Californians have a free market perception problem, and it needs to be addressed.
Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Anti-consumeurism is bullshit. Buy Nothing Day is bullshit. To me, every day is Buy Something Day.
I am a normal person. I need to eat. I walk a couple blocks to the store. I enter the gocery store. That grocery store has a large array of foodstuffs of all kinds - meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, pasta, soups, ice cream, cakes... whatever I desire or need for my dinner.
The grocery store exists as a mediator between the producers and me, the customer. They draw foodstuffs from all around the continent in one place so I can buy them. And I buy them so I can "consume" them.
The Greenies have made "consume" into an evil, dark word. Consuming is what the greedy humans do when they are not in harmony with nature. Other species, or more primitive societies, hunt and fish, but they are not inherently evil, and so they don't "consume". But I'm a human being with clearly-defined values and defending human progress, therefore I am an evil consumer, unlike the noble Greenie who preaches undefined "natural" values and attacks human progress in the name of "sustainability", "culture" and "harmony".
On the other hand, no one can live without consuming resources. So the anti-consumeurist movement is predicated on one giant contradiction. But as I said in "The Greenies and their beliefs", maybe they think it's okay as long as you can brainwash your children to become "caring" Greenies like they are. I don't feel like knowing one long enough to figure that out.
The Greenie ideology is predicated on repressing human instincts and needs, as well as compassion towards the least fortunate, in order to fulfill a vague idea of social and environmental "harmony", which is really nothing more than self-righteous sacrifice which accomplishes absolutely nothing. Even though they resent this assessment, Greenies are inherently amoral and anti-humanist : to them human values are inferior and must serve higher ideals.
I'm willing to bet that most Greenies have never lived in a third-world country, never had to shop at Wal-Mart or eat at McDonalds for monetary reasons, and never had a primary sector job. I'm not playing holier-than-thou here (even though I am, in fact, holier), as I'm not part of those categories either, but I'm not advocating hurting the least fortunate, so I have nothing to feel guilty about.
Consumption, on the other hand, fulfills basic human needs. In modern society, it is the most basic expression of value. It is by "consuming" basic goods that we express our values, from the simplest like eating, to the most complex like social visibility. Even Greenies "consume" to fulfill these values, they're just dishonest about it. I find it hard to talk about Greenies and "sustainability" fanatics because I think their position is a basic contradiction, and that only the greatly dishonest or the outright insane could possibly adopt it. There's just not much to say beyond "you're lying".
Consumption and gift-giving are also the greatest expressions of voluntary action. The fact that anti-consumeurists strenuously argue against them (in fact, right now a "Buy Nothing Christmas" image has been slapped on the Buy Nothing Day page - the idea is so sacrilegous and disgusting that I'm not even going to dignify that) shows that what they are after is not a better lifestyle or worldview, but the basis of cooperation itself. Of course, this assumes that they are intelligent enough to think their position up to that point, which sadly is not true.
When I buy my foodstuffs, there are a few rules I follow. I buy the store brand unless there is an important difference in quality with more expensive brands. And I don't buy any vegetarian, "organic" or low-fat food. Unlike the first rule, this one is purely a matter of principles - I do not subscribe to the anti-scientific bias inherent in "organic" goods, I do not subscribe to vegetarian propaganda, I don't subscribe to the obesity scares, and I don't want to contribute to any of these ideologies and sacrifice any enjoyment of life.
And in the end, that is the real issue. All the anti-globalization, vegetarian, anti-scientific rhetoric is just rationalization that they don't even understand anyway, and certainly don't want to think through. The real reason why they align themselves as our cultural enemies, and on the side of primitivism, is a simple question of values. We value life, comfort and pleasure, science and human progress. They preach ascetism and the "natural", and reject human values as evil and corrupt. In short, our ideology is about the reality of human life, and their ideology is about submission to a higher, unreal, non-human ideal. Greenie collectivism, like religious collectivism and political collectivism, should be relegated to the trash heap of history.
At least that's what I think about when I come back from the grocery store, every single day : thank Providence my ancestors weren't Greenies. Happy Buy Something Day everyone !
Oh, and by the way, the Carnival of the Green doesn't want entries that are about anti-consumeurism. Apparently anti-consumeurism is not Greenie. What-ever...
Sunday, January 1, 2006
Why You Are a Libertarian - A moral article by Harry Browne.
You’re a libertarian because you abhor violence . . .
When a neighbor isn’t willing to contribute as much to a social project as you are, you’d never think of:
Using a gun to force him to contribute;
Hiring an armed gang to threaten to kidnap him or confiscate his money if he didn’t contribute;
Using the government in place of the armed gang if he didn’t contribute — because every government program, in the final analysis, involves violence against those who don’t comply.
If two people have agreed to engage in voluntary behavior between them, with no violence involved, you’d never think of:
Using a gun to stop them;
Hiring an armed gang to threaten to kidnap them if they didn’t stop;
Using the government in place of the armed gang to stop them.
If a company and an individual have agreed to engage in voluntary behavior between them, with no violence involved, you’d never think of:
Using a gun to stop them;
Hiring an armed gang to threaten to kidnap them if they didn’t stop;
Using the government in place of the armed gang to stop them.
If a foreign government is not attacking America, you’d never support the idea of initiating violence against the foreign country.
As one who abhors violence, you’re willing to tolerate anything that’s peaceful, and you practice the principle of live and let live — opposing the initiation of force (violence) against anyone for any purpose.
That’s why you’re a libertarian.