The Libertarian Standard » Wilton Alston Property - Prosperity - Peace Sat, 16 May 2015 17:42:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. The Libertarian Standard clean The Libertarian Standard (The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace The Libertarian Standard » Wilton Alston TV-G Of Morality and Failed Business Strategies… Fri, 15 Aug 2014 21:13:35 +0000 Some time ago, back in 2013 in fact, Richard Branson published a piece on LinkedIn, under the heading of “Big Idea 2013: This Year the Drug War Ends” wherein he positied, among other things, that if the War on (Some) Drugs was a business strategy, it would long ago have been scrapped.  He’s absolutely correct. And he’s also absolutely incorrect.

The War on (Some) Drugs is not a failed business strategy, and it is dangerous to even suggest that it is. Instead, it is a failed moral strategy. If it seems counter-intuitive to you that the government should be in the business of applying moral strategies, you win a prize. The control of what enters one’s body is, at root, the very basis of self-ownership. (Admittedly, the phrase “self-ownership” is not quite the correct nuance. I don’t “own” me, I “am” me, but anyway…)

The apparent failure of the War on (Some) Drugs speaks just as much to its actual goals as to its legitimate chances for success. In other words, if the goal was to criminalize large portions of an entire generation, then it has been a raging success. However, if the goal was to prevent people from freely consuming that which they know is their right anyway, it had no hope of success in the first place, and that lesson was obvious from alcohol prohibition.

On the more general issue of business strategies, why is it is dangerous to draw such a parallel to the War on (Some) Drugs? Such a suggestion–that just because the War on (Some) Drugs is failing that we should stop it–is a trap. It is a great example of the argument from effect, a veritable fat, shiny, Red Herring waiting for the obvious, “well, people still murder each other…” retort. Let us be clear, murdering someone is an attack on them, which is morally prohibited, dare I say malum in se anyway. Me putting a substance that you don’t like into my body has nothing to do with you.

Drug prohibition is unarguably malum prohibitum and therefore simply the attempt–misguided and puritanical–to impose the choices of some on the behavior of all. Ergo, it was destined for failure. By the way, this in no way suggests that drugs are good, but then again, neither are Twinkies. Now, if one wants to argue about the possible negative results of drug usage–crime, sickness, whatever–those ostensibly resultant actions, at least those that actually infringe on others, are ALREADY against the law. They are, in fact, malum in se regardless.

If you’re in your own home getting baked or shooting up, and don’t bother anyone else, it should be no one else’s business. I might also argue that most, if not all, of the crime supposedly endemic to illegal drugs occurs commensurate with the distribution of said substances despite their illegality. Make it legal on one day and that crime stops the next day. And, if the lessons of places like Portugal are any indication, with very little, if any, increase in widespread drug usage.
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Apparently Turn-About Is Not Fair Play to Bloomberg? Fri, 03 May 2013 02:09:17 +0000 New York City’s Mayor-Turned-Nanny-Wannabee, Michael Bloomberg got a taste of his own medicine when he was denied a second slice of pizza at a local restaurant. Says the “report,” from The Daily Currant:

Bloomberg was having an informal working lunch with city comptroller John Liu at the time and was enraged by the embarrassing prohibition. The owners would not relent, however, and the pair were forced to decamp to another restaurant to finish their meal.

Sometimes one of these busybody control freaks gets his just deserts, even before he’s finished his meal!

…cross-posted at LRCBlog.

E.T.A.:…by the way, in case the quotation marks around “report” are too subtle, this is a satirical story, like those on The Onion, although this would make my day if it actually happened!))

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Didn’t The Terrorists Win A While Back? Sat, 20 Apr 2013 03:49:22 +0000 I posted the paragraph below on my Facebook page and a long, sometimes contentious, debate broke out. We even had a resident of Boston and a policeman–two different people, by the way–chime in to attack my point of view. Given that it generated so much discussion in that venue, I figured I’d share it here as well.

Armored police vehicles. Tactical teams. Everyone under house arrest. Soldiers and/or other armed enforcers roaming the streets. House-to-house searches. We call it, “Terror in Boston!” In any one of the several places the U.S. has invaded and/or is currently deploying drones, they’d call it, “Tuesday.” Perspective. Stated differently, maybe the “terrorists” won a while back?

Even looking at it now, it strikes me as obvious and uncontroversial. Maybe I’ve spent too much time sniffing the glue of philosophical free thought?

…cross-posted at LRCBlog.

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Drone Rage: A Day Late and a Sequester’d Dollar Short? Wed, 27 Feb 2013 03:51:55 +0000 The brilliant Glenn Greenwald tweeted today:

Must-read from ProPublica: The Drone War Doctrine We Still Know Nothing About (via @robertgreenwald)

Must reading indeed. Here’s what I don’t get about the drone debate. Why the @#$% did it take so long to start? Admittedly, I’ve grown somewhat numb to the fact that so-called conservatives are attacking the current POTUS about issues that seemed somehow obscure to them when Shrub was manning the con. Still, one would hope that basic human decency would, maybe, cause some kind of reaction to senseless killing of men, women, and children even in the far-away Middle East. Yet, there has been an alarming lack of concern about the drone program before now. Given CIA director nominee John Brennan’s recent cageyness about plans to use drones domestically, everyone is up in arms. The British are coming! One drone if by land! Two drones if by sea!

ProPublica sums it up nicely:

Consider: while four American citizens are known to have been killed by drones in the past decade, the strikes have killed an estimated total of 2,600 to 4,700 people over the same period.

Four American citizens killed–over the past decade–added to the pending plan to deploy drones domestically, signals the apocalypse. Several thousand non-Americans, is, well, another day at the office. One suspects that there are more than a few Americans who think such action is warranted, particularly since we’re “at war” with Al Qaeda or some such.  Really? Well then, how to reconcile this little tidbit?

“What about the people who [are killed and] aren’t U.S. citizens and who aren’t on a [known terrorist] list?” asks Naureen Shah , a human rights and counterterrorism expert at Columbia Law School. Of the few thousand people killed, Shah notes, “it’s hard to believe all of these people are senior operational leaders of Al Qaeda.

Indeed. Are there really several thousand Al Qaeda “senior operational leaders” in Yemen and/or Pakistan? No. Furthermore, the standard for deciding to deploy a deadly drone strike is, shall we say, remarkably, embarrassingly  disgustingly, low.  U.S. officials are using what is termed a “‘reasonable man’ standard.” Let us again return to ProPublica, because I cannot say it better.

Asked what the standard is for who could be hit, former Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter recently told an interviewer: “The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40. My feeling is one man’s combatant is another man’s – well, a chump who went to a meeting.

So, there you have it. Certainly, this author won’t be confused with a military strategist any time soon, but one feels pretty safe in saying that is not a defensible standard for deciding who dies. We can certainly be excited that people like Rachel Maddow are asking hard questions about drone deployment given Brennan’s pending confirmation. However, just like the Tea Party’s tardy recognition of fascism under the previous statist Czar, it just strikes me as a little late, now that we’re all enjoying the audacity of hope.

Better late than never I guess!

…cross-posted at the LRCBlog.

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Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Outside… Wed, 20 Feb 2013 23:26:14 +0000 Having witnessed more than a couple knock-down, drag-out scuffles between various factions of the ostensible “liberty movement” over the last few days and weeks and months, it’s not really surprising to me when people disagree. One of the best–and most entertaining–ones occurred on Facebook (Where else?) just a few weeks ago. One side suggested that “Amerika is a police state!” They provided examples and context. The other side responded with, “C’mon! No one was jailed for calling the POTUS an idiot this week, right?” That’s also a pretty solid point. And, as is true of most of these debates, debates that balance on a sliver of disagreement between two tiny factions of what is itself a very small faction in the U.S. political landscape, both sides are somewhat correct.

There is little doubt that the current U.S. populace is accepting of and subject to infringements of liberty that would have likely had the so-called Founding Fathers reaching for ammunition.

There is also little doubt that no one in the U.S. will have to escape to another country for calling their Congressmen an idiot. (That this is relatively commonplace in other countries was brought home to me when I caught a ride recently with an immigrant from The Congo.)

So a little perspective can go a long way.

All that said, when I see stories like this one, wherein “a coalition of upstate New York universities and defense contractors has submitted a bid to become a federally designated testing and research site for the integration of unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, into domestic airspace” I get that tingly feeling along the hairs on the back of my neck. Didn’t I recently read that the President’s first drone strike killed innocent civilians? (According to one news source, “The first strike in Yemen ordered by the Obama administration, in December 2009, was by all accounts a disaster.”) And yet, the drone program is accelerating, not abating.

Just the other day, we got our answer on the question of domestic use of drones. Says the article, “John Brennan, the nominee to be head of the CIA, didn’t rule out the use of unmanned drones in the U.S. when quizzed about the matter, a response that alarmed rights groups and civil libertarians.” Of course he didn’t rule it out. What shocks me is that people seem to genuinely believe that a government which deploys unmanned, remote-controlled devices that kill innocent men, women, and children in Yemen or Pakistan will somehow think, “Nope! That’s immoral…” when faced with the same option in the U.S. Innocent men, women, and children are killed in drone strikes so routinely that one wonders who the actual targets really are, or what purpose the program really has. Seriously, if you kill the people you claim to be protecting with each attempt to protect them, wouldn’t your methodology or your motives come into question at some point?  How the psychotic megalomanics who control the U.S. war machine treat the brown people in the Middle East is exactly analogous to how they’ll (eventually) treat the folks here. It’s simply a matter of when, not if.  And frankly, if we continue to let these bastards kill whoever they want overseas, we probably deserve it.

Rather than draw any further conclusions at this point–or further illustrate the height of my blood pressure–I’ll just end with the text of one of my recent tweets, somewhat modified…

“The skies of Yemen, coming soon to the U.S!”

…cross-posted at the LRCBlog.

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When Will the Voters Learn? Fri, 19 Oct 2012 22:05:07 +0000 Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” ~ Clay Shirky

You know the slavery Kool-Aid is working well when those who are oppressed petition their oppressors for more of that which helps keep them oppressed.

For instance, public education is a tool that was designed–specifically and directly–as a means of controlling the hoi polloi.  The educational system of compulsory public education championed by Horace Mann, chock-full of multiple-choice testing perfected by Frederick J. Kelly, feeding into statistical models based upon the work of (eugenicist) Sir Francis Galton, was (and is) designed to fulfill the need for employees who are primed and ready to inhabit factories where efficiency can be measured in ways developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor. (The fact that so few of such factories currently exist in America should also be telling, but that’s a different discussion.) Mann believed “universal public education was the best way to turn the nation’s unruly children into disciplined, judicious republican citizens.” The whole thing was designed to produce a seething throng of people ready to take orders, stand in line, ask few questions, and install bumpers all day–accepting the interminable boredom of such a life–while their over-lords made a ton of money.  Free and compulsory public education was never intended to create inquisitive, risk-taking, leaders. Or entrepreneurs and/or business owners.  Or frankly, owners of anything! Yet, people clamor that “education is a right” and “we need more funding for our schools” despite the inescapable fact that these same crap holes are doing their best at producing children incapable of independent thought and unable to read a book (or a blueprint), solve a simple mathematics problem, or devise a new strategy.  It’s damned sad, really.

A similar conclusion can be drawn regarding government job creation. Throughout the current election season, you’ll hear people clamoring that Obama will do all he can to create jobs while Romney won’t, or some such simplistic foolishness. Any president who claims to create jobs, uses tax dollars and government debt to pay people wages that are too high, for work that otherwise likely would not be done. In other words, the money is wasted on boondoggles. This action has at least two negative side-effects.  One, it takes money from those who produce it and gives it to someone else. (That’s the taxation piece.) That might sound good to the recipient unless he realizes that he is only getting the proverbial fish that feeds him for a day, if that long. Secondly, this stolen–they call it stimulus nowadays–money results in those at the top having more real income than the supposed beneficiaries of those government-created jobs. (That’s the inflation piece.) The people who think they benefit from the government-created-jobs are worse off in the long term, despite all appearances to the contrary in the short term. Ludwig von Mises spoke of this phenomenon in, “On Current Monetary Problems” with:

The advocates of annual increases in the quantity of money never mention the fact that for all those who do not get a share of the newly created additional quantity of money, the government’s action means a drop in their purchasing power which forces them to restrict their consumption. It is ignorance of this fundamental fact that induces various authors of economic books and articles to suggest a yearly increase of money without realizing that such a measure necessarily brings about an undesirable impoverishment of a great part, even the majority, of the population.

An injection of money into the economy by the government generally results in a transfer of wealth towards the top—real income transferred from those who can least afford it to those who already have plenty. (I already noted some time ago that this phenomenon seemed to get rolling in 1980.  The chart below is instructive.) One might even suppose this state-facilitated income transfer is the reason why statists in power so strongly support government control of the money supply, but that’s another discussion. Bottom Line:  Those who clamor for a president who cares about them get the same treatment and results as they would from some random bastard who openly scorned them. (No offense to the random bastard you support!)

And yet, here we are at election time, and the clarion calls continue to go up, from both sides of the ostensible aisle.

Cross-Posted at LRCBlog.

Five-Year Average Increase in Real Wages

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Has Romney Been Reading Bastiat? Tue, 18 Sep 2012 16:43:53 +0000

“Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” ~ Frederic Bastiat

No. Not even.

When Romney said “there are 47 percent who are with him [POTUS], who are dependent on government, who believe that, that they are victims, who believe that government has the responsibility to care for them” he was roughly half right. Very. Roughly. What he left out is that the “other” 47 percent, those that are with him [Romney] are after the same thing. Admittedly, the number of people who are unrepentant tax feeders, to use Will Grigg’s apt description, is likely (hopefully?) lower than 94 percent. The naive, hopeful dreamer in me would peg it at probably closer to 65–75 percent.  Whatever the exact number is, the simple fact of the matter is that politics — particularly in the U.S., but abroad as well — is dominated by sociopaths with megalomaniacal tendencies who are often attended to and served by sycophants with dependency issues.

The other 25-35 percent and I just wish they’d all leave us the hell alone.

(Cross-Posted at LRCBlog.)

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The Indignity of Airport Security: Will It Ever End? Sat, 01 Sep 2012 01:12:01 +0000 As I sat on one of those metal benches, retying my shoes after enduring yet another near-cavity search courtesy the TSA, something both rather obvious and rather sad dawned on me. It is, in fact, the answer to the question that heads this post, and that answer, by the way, is “No.” As a matter of fact, “Hell no.” As I sat there, I contemplated how much more intrusive the searches could get before the public rose up and said, “Enough!” Simultaneously, a conversation I had enjoyed with a fellow traveler as we stood in a very long line at the Monroe County (Rochester) International Airport rolled around in my head.

She had quipped, as we inched closer to our turn in the scanner, “I’m just glad that we haven’t had a bra bomber yet.” We laughed, but it was more out of pain than humor. She and I both knew that we were experiencing a real-life reenactment of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and that things would get worse–likely a lot worse–before they got better. (And that’s making the very large assumption, an assumption I might characterize as a pipe dream, that things will ever get better.)

As an aside, and just to provide some context for my conclusion, I recall talking to an executive from ExxonMobil 10 to 15 years ago. It was at that time when gas prices had just begun to creep up to levels that before then had seemed unthinkable. As I recall, the highest they had been was nearing $1.50/gallon, although that figure is just a guess. As I whined about the prices and how people would cope, he calmly asked me: “Wilt, do you think prices are at the highest level they could reach while people still buy lots of gas?” I thought about it a minute and had to conclude he was correct. Gas could (and probably would) far exceed that price level without any real reaction from the public, except whining as they drove their SUVs 35 miles to work alone. The same logic is true of the practices at Airport Security Theatre.

At what point do you think people would refuse to endure more? I submit that TSA could install curtains, with TSA-employed nurse practitioners and physician assistants performing very thorough “security checks” and all we’d have is longer lines. Shucks, people might begin to use the occasion for informal check-ups! I can hear the conversations now. “Bill, how are those hemorrhoids?” “Feels good Stan, and we’ll see what the nurse says at Airport Security next week. I’m flying on business.”

Coincidentally to all this thinking, I was in the midst of reading R. Dwayne Betts’ “A Question of Freedom.” It is a prison memoir of a young man sentenced to 10 years, spending much of it in maximum security prisons–and in “the hole” much of that time–for car jacking someone as a teenager. While Betts’ story is fascinating for a number of reasons, what struck me most viscerally was this statement he makes in a chapter entitled, “Prison 101…” Says Betts, “Prison life is a series of small indignities that you’re made to adapt to.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Cross-Posted at LRCBlog.

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In Defense of Tattoo Freedom? Fri, 31 Aug 2012 23:48:38 +0000 The more I think about it, the less respect I have for the trite, and supposedly pragmatic, attack some people make on tattoos. It goes something like this: “How will that look when you’re 80?”

Basically, who gives a rat’s ass?

My suspicion is that by the time one gets to 80 years old, other areas of concern–like pooping regularly without help and figuring out whence that scratchy hair in strange places came–will dominate. You won’t be worried about whether or not your Celtic Cross still looks just as good as it used to!

The condition of your tats, and frankly, what anyone else thinks about how they look, won’t be in the Top 25 Things About Which to Worry. On top of that, let’s say you got that tattoo at 30. I submit that 50+ years of enjoyment ain’t too bad. Of course, YMMV.
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Are All TV Commercials Aimed at Ignorance? Mon, 09 Jan 2012 01:49:06 +0000 Pretty much everyone knows–or should know–that many, and maybe most, of the points made by most politicians are of little value, amounting to little more than equine feces at best. A commercial I saw the other day illustrated that the same is true of TV commercials. (Yes, I realize that’s no discovery. But still…) The advertisement I saw featured a clean-cut young man making a pitch to “buy American-made gasoline at Kwik Fill” because doing so “strengthens our economy.” Do people believe that type of thing? The short answer is:  Yes. How do I know? Because presidents–and presidential candidates–have been saying pretty much the same thing for close to 4 decades, beginning with Nixon and continuing right up through Obama.

Rachel Maddow–not exactly a standard-bearer for libertarian ideals and the power of the free market–demolished this lunacy on her show, and the episode is immortalized on YouTube, under the appropriate title, “Oil Is Oil Is Oil.” There is no such thing as “foreign” oil and there is no such thing as “domestic” oil. There is no way to purchase oil from domestic sources or that “benefits Americans only.” Maddow covers many valid points in the video–which is recommended viewing–but in economics-speak, oil is fungible. As such, the concept of energy independence by lessening the U.S. dependence on foreign oil is just the same old jingoistic bird cage liner scrapings. All oil is sold on an international market and all oil is purchased from that same place. Which service station you use is largely irrelevant.

Admittedly, Maddow makes a couple points with which I disagree, most notably in her suggestion that we can affect positive change by lessening our overall dependence on oil. To that suggestion, my response would be “Why?” To what purpose should we–users of energy–attempt to cut back on our usage of energy? To what purpose should we–people who benefit from all manner of conveniences due directly to the technology of fossil fuels–attempt to change our ways? I can only assume that Maddow believes, like many liberals, and many conservatives, that the consumer should react to policy concerns versus market signals. If oil is the cheapest alternative, then the consumer should continue to buy it, period. If, and when, oil becomes so rare as to not be the cheapest alternative (and/or the best technological alternative) the costs should reflect it, and we consumers will move on to something else. (The costs will reflect it, unless the government gets in the way.) The problem is not over-dependence on oil. The problem is lack of understanding of basic economics, the market, and the ramifications of supply and demand.

Of more concern to me, and maybe more importance, is this:  If this type of obviously-flawed economics thinking, as evidenced by that commercial, has pervaded presidential talking points for forty years and continues to pervade TV advertising even now, how much more horribly flawed information flows unabated?

Bottom Line:  I guess they don’t call it the idiot box for nothing.

Cross-posted at the LRCBlog.

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