The Libertarian Standard » Political Correctness Property - Prosperity - Peace Fri, 12 Dec 2014 02:10:29 +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 libertarianism, anarchism, capitalism, free markets, liberty, private property, rights, Mises, Rothbard, Rand, antiwar, freedom The Libertarian Standard » Political Correctness TV-G privcheck Mon, 24 Mar 2014 11:17:22 +0000 Check Your Privilege

In a recent Freeman article, “Check Your Context,” columnist Sarah Skwire brought my attention to a popular meme on the political left, both online and off: “Check your privilege.”

At its gentlest, this is advice to raise our awareness of those aspects of our personal histories that may lead to complacent assumptions about how the world works, assumptions that may limit the scope of our moral imaginations.

When it is less gentle (which is often), it is a dismissal of the opinions of anyone who is insufficiently poor, or, more likely, insufficiently left-wing. [Read the rest of the article.]


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Yes, We Have No Bananas Mon, 24 Feb 2014 12:28:29 +0000 YesWeHaveNoBananasIn a recent post on my personal blog (“Is mediocrity intelligent?”), I talked about the importance of a diversity of strategies — even apparently “wrong” ones — to the long-term survival of a species. The corollary of course is that overinvestment in any single strategy can be catastrophic.

We see this issue at play in modern agribusiness.

As Popular Science informs us,

The 1923 musical hit “Yes! We Have No Bananas” is said to have been written after songwriters Frank Silver and Irving Cohn were denied in an attempt to purchase their favorite fruit by a syntactically colorful, out-of-stock neighborhood grocer.

It seems that an early infestation of Panama disease was already causing shortages in 1923. But the out-of-stock bananas in question were not the Cavendish variety we all eat today; they were Gros Michel (“Big Mike”) bananas, and they were all that American banana lovers ate until the 1950s, when the disease finally finished them off.

I would love to know what a Gros Michel banana tastes like. I’m a big fan of bananas and eat them every day. (Actually, I drink them, blended into smoothies.) But the reason I only know the taste of Cavendish — and the reason you do too, unless you’re old enough to have had some Gros Michel mixed into your pablum — is that Cavendish bananas are resistant to the strain of disease that wiped out our original bananas. We have to assume that the Plan B bananas we now enjoy are only second best as far as flavor goes. They may not even be first best at survival, because the banana industry is searching for a Plan C banana to take the place of the Cavendish once the inevitable crop disease sends it the way of the Gros Michel — something that they predict will happen in the next decade or two. (See Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel.)

Why are bananas so vulnerable to these blights? Why aren’t agricultural scientists worried about our other favorite fruits — apples, for example?

Because there are many different types of apples. I’m dizzied by the variety at our local produce warehouse.

But not only is there just the one type of banana at the green grocers and in supermarkets; each banana you’ve probably every eaten is a clone of every other banana you’ve eaten. One genetic pattern manifested billions of times over, across millions of households in the past half century. And each Gros Michel was a clone of every other one, too. That’s because bananas reproduce asexually (as do potatoes, another food that’s especially vulnerable to disease — remember the Irish potato famine?).

Cavendish DNA is different enough from Gros Michel DNA that the disease that targeted the one species was no threat to the other. But any infection that can kill one Cavendish plant can wipe out the worldwide supply.

There are many reasons food activists attack Big Agribusiness — some good, some bad, and some wacky. One criticism that seems eminently reasonable to me is a concern that Big Agra puts all its billions of eggs in one giant basket.

Once upon a time, genetic diversity in farm products was built into how farming took place. Farmers farmed local land with local genetic strains of plants and animals. Chickens may have come from Asia, and Europe never saw a tomato until the Spanish brought some back from the New World, but even as trade began to go global several centuries ago, the limits of transportation and technology meant that gene pools could be local and diverse in a way that is much harder in our era of global overnight shipping and transnational corporate bureaucracies.

If an infestation wipes out the Golden Delicious, I can eat Fugi apples instead. But if the Cavendish disappears tomorrow, there isn’t yet a different banana to take its place.


In “Is mediocrity intelligent?” I wrote about the time my professor presented to the “artificial life” department at Bell Labs. In the context of a communications-research lab, artificial life was about using the lessons of biology, ecology, and evolution to make telephone networks more robust.

You may think that agriculture is more “natural” than phone switches and fiberoptics, but farming often short-circuits nature’s mechanisms to suit our short-term goals. One of the main such strategies of nature is diversity. And as I tried to illustrate, in that post, with the concept of the genetic deme (an isolated and seemingly inferior gene pool within a species), diversity means that what looks like an inferior strategy today could turn out to be the salvation of the species tomorrow.

As Larry Reed wrote recently in the Freeman,

Statists those who prefer force-based political action over spontaneous, peaceful, and voluntary initiatives — excel at distilling their views into slogans. (“A Slogan Worth Your Bumper?”)

But what I find revealing is the contradictions at play in the juxtaposition of different bumper stickers on the same car. (And when you see a whole bunch of bumper stickers on the same car, odds are you’re driving behind a left-wing statist.)


Last weekend, at a red light, I was behind a minivan that brandished three bumper stickers:

One said, “Women for Obama.”

If that wasn’t enough to declare the driver’s politics, the next bumper sticker made the claim that strong public schools create strong communities.

The last bumper stick advised us in rainbow colors to “Celebrate Diversity!”

(Pop quiz: Are bumper stickers #2 and #3 in accord or at odds?)

Now, it’s a standard complaint against leftists that they talk diversity while pushing ideological conformity. Political correctness, and all that.

But to me the greater irony is that the Left consistently pushes centralization. Eat local, buy local, but decide everything in Washington DC.

I know that there are left-wing decentralists, and perhaps they genuinely do see the important parallels between genetic diversity and political federalism, between local communities and local authority. But I keep thinking of a story Tom Woods tells of his attending a decentralist conference back in the 1990s, where he happily discovered like-minded activists from both Left and Right. But to the apparent delight of the left-wing so-called decentralists, the highlight of the event was the keynote speaker: Vice President Al Gore.

BananaBookNo, in my experience, the vast majority of people with Buy Local bumper stickers, as with the Celebrate Diversity crowd, are also often, e.g., Women for Obama — that is to say, champions of ever-more-centralized authority. I’m confident that the driver in front of me at the intersection saw no irony in celebrating diversity while advocating strong public schools — and an even stronger central government.

But in the biosphere, where diversity rules, order is spontaneous. That spontaneous order is both the cause of and the result from overwhelming diversity. There are no central strategies in evolution, only in the human world, and only in recent human history. Evolution gave the natural world hundreds of varieties of banana. The United Fruit Company (hardly a free-market firm, by the way) gave us only one.

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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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Drop It Like It’s Hoppe (rap) Tue, 15 Jan 2013 22:19:41 +0000 Evan Isaac, Mark Ovdabeest, and Colin Porter have made a fun aprioristic rap song of Hoppe’s social views, Drop It Like It’s Hoppe (based on Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot” (lyrics)):

The lyrics are below. Ovdabeest is the same guy who made Black and Yellow: AnCap remix (based on this song):

Last time I (and Hoppe, and others in the Mises crowd) were lampooned like this was in Jason Ditz’s series of short movies: see The Koch Cycle: Anarcho-Pacificist Films Presents…

Drop It Like It’s Hoppe

Published on Jan 15, 2013
Written by Evan Isaac, Mark Ovdabeest, and Colin Porter
Performed by Mark Ovdabeest, as the characters of Stephan Kinsella and Hans Herman Hoppe


Empiricists in the crib, ma
Drop it like its Hoppe
Drop it like its Hoppe
Drop it like its Hoppe
When the reds try to get at ya
Park it like its Hoppe
Park it like its Hoppe
Park it like its Hoppe
And if a statist get an attitude
Pop it like its Hoppe
Pop it like its Hoppe
Pop it like its Hoppe
I got Mises on my shelf, a low time preference for wealth
And I roll argumentation ethics for the ownership of self

( Verse 1: Kinsella as Pharell)
I’m a nice dude, an attorney
My kid Ethan, does Montessori
See this IP, it’s not real property
It doesn’t suffer from any sort of scarcity
It’s just privilege to allow a monopoly
That ownership leads to intellectual poverty
An unintended consequence of governmental lobbying
I’m into freedom, go ahead and copy me
Killer with the beat, my wife works on Wall Street
Social order is best achievedwith a ruling natural elite
So don’t try to run up on my ear talking all that Marxist sh*t
I won’t be part of that sh*t
You made it worse, but you didn’t start that sh*t
You should think about it, take a second.
I don’t care what society you think you modeled
Aggress against me, your right to life is estoppled!


(Verse 2: Hoppe as Snoop)
I’m an Austrian, but ya’ll knew that
And an anarchist, yea I had to do that
I keep the black-and-gold hanging out my backside
But only on the right side, yeah, that’s the cap side
…Ain’t no other way to deduce the way I deduce
I make my case from a priori truths
Two, One, yep, Three
Hans Herman H-O-double-P-E
I do philosophy well, like an ancient Greek
you’re way out of your league son, so to speak
Rights aren’t granted by Allah, Zeus, or Thor
Buddah or Krishna or any of his other forms
that we can argue shows that they’re accepted norms
to which the vast majority of us conform
So let the premise of the state be seen unveiled
Democracy is a god that fizzailed


They say I’m right wing, Fetishizing race,
But I say it’s all the same to the marketplace,
I’m erudite, I don’t take sh*t,
Tripple H, yeah I’m rolling straight.
On the Vegas scene, stop the libertine,
sh*t that your dealin, cause I’m paleo and mean,
Oh you comin up to me, tryin to be rude,
can’t dig the culture, you get forcibly exclude,
You lose, High IQs,
I know my money, got them golden hues,
To the last cent, now we represent,
let me hear the voice, Sag es auf Deutsch
Moral consistency, same rights better be,
applicable to me, philosophy.
My a priori axioms solve the issue,
It’s Aristotle porn, I hope you brought a tissue


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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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‘Hispanic’ vs. ‘White’ Wed, 04 Apr 2012 14:52:18 +0000 As a Hispanic, watching the media’s use of terms like “white” and “Hispanic” and “Latino” in the Zimmerman-Martin case has been an occasion for much eye-rolling. The way the press uses these terms betrays just how completely ignorant most reporters and talking heads are about even the basics of ethnicity and race in this country. Also, it’s a fair bet that the “journalists” at CNN and NBC have never actually seen a Hispanic who wasn’t scrubbing toilets or peeling potatoes back at the reporters’ Chevy Chase estates, so they can be forgiven for being so clueless on this matter. Our media elite might have to leave Martha’s Vineyard to actually meet a Hispanic who didn’t fit their preconceived notions of race and ethnicity.

With the Zimmerman-Martin case, Zimmerman is labeled as simply white, in spite of his claims of Hispanic heritage, because that’s what the media has determined will produce the most fertile ground for “racial” conflict. Had Zimmerman been the victim of a shooting, and the shooter were also white, then Zimmerman would of course then be labeled Latino, and the case would then be a national story on the oppression of Latino persons of color by whites in this country. In fact, Zimmerman is pretty obviously white or perhaps mestizo. What is not deniable however that he is also Hispanic. I don’t know why this is so hard for the media to grasp, but let’s just make this clear: According to anthropologists, ethnologists, historians, and census takers, “Hispanic” or “Latino” is not a racial designation. It is a term that denotes ethnicity.

Hispanics can be of any race. There are white Hispanics, black Hispanics, and even Asian Hispanics. Examples would be former Mexican president Vicente Fox, Cuban musician Ibrahim Ferrer, and former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, respectively. There are also, of course, mestizo Hispanics, such as Benito Juarez. White non-Hispanics are properly referred to as “non-Hispanic whites” in the technical jargon, and among us Hispanics, we simply refer to such people as “Anglos” for lack of another easy-to-use term. We all know, however, that only the mestizo Hispanics, who look like the stereotypical Latinos in the minds of many Americans, count as fully “Hispanic.” Indeed, my mother who is a dark-skinned Hispanic is often forced to have conversations like this with Anglos and other non-Hispanics:

Stranger: What are you? I mean racially? Mom: Uh, well, my parents came here from Mexico Stranger: Hmmm, you don’t look “Hispanic” Mom: Maybe if I donned a sombrero and put my hair in braids I would look Hispanic enough for you?

And so on.

Left liberals are often the worst about this. Being utterly parochial about race and ethnicity, as so many Anglo leftists are, they fancy themselves the arbiters of who is sufficiently Hispanic and who is not. Such is the case with the talking heads during the Zimmerman-Martin affair. Zimmerman, perhaps because of his German last name, is deemed white without any qualification because, well, that plays better as racial high-drama. And we all know that all Hispanics have Spanish surnames just like Nestor Kirchner, Salma Hayek and Bernardo O’Higgins, the George Washington of Chile.

Vicente Fox, Person of Color

Why should we refer to Zimmerman as a Hispanic? Well, because we know that he and his family claim that he is Hispanic. They know better than we do. A Hispanic is simply a person raised in a culture in which Hispanic cultural elements are a dominant or influential factor in one’s life. Such things include the Spanish language, a feeling of shared heritage and cultural solidarity with other Hispanics, and sometimes but not necessarily, Roman Catholicism. If someone has been raised in or lives in such an environment, such a person is probably Hispanic. It has nothing to do with race, and it has nothing to with the origins of one’s last name.

There is a reason that questionnaires with demographic information ask two questions to determine one’s status as a Hispanic or Latino: What race are you? and “Are you Hispanic or Latino?

NB: I don’t know if Zimmerman is a murderer or not. We have trials to sort those things out.

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Fears of Decentralization Wed, 08 Feb 2012 13:27:21 +0000 Many libertarians, perhaps most notably Thomas E. Woods, support the decentralization of power from the federal government, including the power of nullification. Many people fear and denounce this power, often because they like the immense power of the central state and are supporters of big government. There are, however, some very real concerns by people who desire freedom as their highest political goal. A simple question, which is asked in various forms is “if decentralization leads to more freedom, why did African slavery thrive in a more decentralized America, and only go away (well, sort of) when the central state forced it to go away?” Similar statements could be said of Jim Crow.

Tom Woods briefly addresses a critical point which bears emphasis: a major problem with decentralization is that decentralizing power may have huge negative effects for people who cannot vote.  The very people who are most obsessed with them not having political power are the people who are most empowered by the receding power of the central state. This points to the people that libertarian activists should concentrate on protecting: non-citizens (including both legal and illegal immigrants) and convicted felons in states which strip them of the franchise. As most minorities have the ability to exercise the vote, the greatest evils of the past have no chance of being repeated. And some unprecedented benefits may come about. Without the significant support of the federal government, individual states could not maintain the murderous drug war at the levels at which it is currently prosecuted.  Family and morals-destroying welfare programs would have to be greatly scaled back without the ability to print money. Taxes would have to be levied to pay for these things, forcing citizens to carefully evaluate just how much they wish to impoverish themselves in the attempt to eradicate various victimless crimes.

The benefits don’t end there. Freedom would be catching in this country for several reasons. Our national myths support the value of freedom. The proximity of states and the freedom of movement among them, in the face of massive differences in the amount of liberty inside them, would mean that the most inventive, industrious people would tend to leave less free areas and go to more free ones. This would impoverish the most oppressive states, further pressuring them to liberate. Perhaps the single most important factor which would allow liberty to really catch in the United States is that the US military would not be looking to crush these efforts, as it does in other countries. If liberty is to be permitted by any government, it is likely that it will have to be permitted in the USA, as the American government is among the world’s most fervent supporters of foisting government on people, whether they like it or not, in the name of “stability.”

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Hayden Responds to “Climate Contrarians Ignore Overwhelming Evidence” Thu, 15 Dec 2011 02:20:43 +0000 Physicist Howard Hayden, a staunch advocate of sound energy policy, sent me a copy of his scathing letter to the Wall Street Journal in response to Climate Contrarians Ignore Overwhelming Evidence, a global warming screed by Prof. Michael E. Mann. It was not published, but the text of the email is appended below, with permission. Hayden is also author of the books A Primer on CO2 and Climate and the recent Bass Ackwards: How Climate Alarmists Confuse Cause with Effect, among others. See also my previous post, Physicist Howard Hayden’s one-letter disproof of global warming claims.

As noted in my post Access to Energy, Hayden helped the late, great Petr Beckmann found the dissident physics journal Galilean Electrodynamics (brochures and further Beckmann info here; further dissident physics links). Hayden later began to publish his own pro-energy newsletter, The Energy Advocate, following in the footsteps of Beckmann’s own journal Access to EnergyI love Hayden’s email sign-off, “People will do anything to save the world … except take a course in science.”

Here’s the letter:


December 5, 2011

Wall Street Journal

Re:  Michael Mann:  Climate Contrarians Ignore Overwhelming Evidence

Dear Editor:

One of the problems with being brilliant far beyond the rest of humanity is that you go through school so fast that you manage to skip a few things along the way.  The Geniuses of Deep Science (GODS), such as Michael Mann and the railway engineer who heads the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are in that category.

While we peons were in grade school learning about the Vikings settling Greenland in the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), the GODS were studying advanced electrodynamics and quantum mechanics. In our art courses we studied paintings from the Little Ice Age (LIA), but the GODS skipped that to concentrate on the Standard Model and string theory.

Not only did the GODS skip over basic science classes, they mastered the art of focusing people’s minds.  They were so good at the craft that they convinced their lesser colleagues and the Nobel Committee that one study of tree rings could supplant thousands of papers in geology journals, paintings in art galleries, and records of crop production from around the world.  Gone was the MWP.  Gone was the LIA.  Who needs that stuff, anyway?

The GODS even invented a new kind of hockey-stick statistics that is so brilliant that a committee of ordinary professors of statistics couldn’t even understand it, so they called it faulty.

You and I might try to draw a connection between CO2 concentration and temperature by making a kind of freshman-algebra graph with a measure of CO2 on one axis and temperature rise on the other.  But the GODS are so superior that they’ve never had to stoop to such childish maneuvers.

With the release of two sets of Climategate emails, the GODS have lost a little luster, but they should be able to hide the decline.

Best Regards,

Howard C. Hayden

Prof. Emeritus of Physics, UConn

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Another DeLong Cheap Shot Sun, 13 Nov 2011 23:27:13 +0000 Economist Brad DeLong has come out swinging against Austrian economics again, and once again he’s punched himself in the face. But he’s too numb to realize it. There’s a great response on the Mises Economics Blog by Jonathan Catalán, and I take a stab on my site, Wirkman Netizen.

It’s interesting that neither Catalán nor I attack, in our respective longer efforts, the worst calumny of DeLong’s, his insinuation that the Austrian distrust of fiat money comes down to anti-Semitism: “[I]n its scarier moments this train of thought slides over to: ‘good German engineers (and workers); bad Jewish financiers.’”

Since Mises was a Jew, and was treated badly for anti-Semitic reasons at times — why does DeLong think Mises left Austria? — and that  Mises never, ever supported anti-Semitism (nor did Hayek, for that matter), this is especially vile. It’s just another example of those leaning left (which means: technocrats who mislabel themselves as “liberals” and “progressives”) playing the racism/anti-semitism card when they lack a good hand.

DeLong should be ashamed of himself. But, then, one of the perks of being in the managerial class of the technocratic state means never having to say you are sorry.


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Super-statists Love The Super State Mon, 05 Sep 2011 18:35:30 +0000 After a horrific and murderous weekend in NYC, Mayor Bloomberg, frustrated that folks determined on committing crimes are ignoring those magical incantations and spells enacted by local legislators, does what must necessarily follow in the mind of the statist: call the feds.

“We cannot tolerate it,” Bloomberg said while speaking at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn. “There are just too many guns on the streets and we have to do something about it.”

New York has the toughest gun laws in the country, but Bloomberg said the city alone cannot stop the onslaught of shootings. “We need the federal government to step up,” he said.

The problem of crime is that it finds a way. And prohibitions are, at best, marginal; but they are totalitarian nonetheless and have no place in a free society. To try to control the means of the few by subjecting the entirety of society to the dictate of a despot is a symptom of desperation. After all, not every place experiences the same level of overall crime or the same numbers of crimes committed by firearms.

And then there is the elephant in the room. As Robert Wicks points out, “‘getting guns off the streets’ is just code for ‘getting poor urban minorities to disarm themselves.'” Indeed, NYC’s own government report on crime shows that minorities both commit and experience a higher percentage of crimes. Yet because most minorities are not criminals but potential victims, gun disarmament leaves minorities in a greater situation of peril. Of course, politicians do not understand economics or how incentives work so they would never think that ending drug (and gun) prohibition, welfare, taxes, zoning and licenses, rent control and compulsory education would radically lower crime across the board.

As for Bloomberg, his policies, and the policies of Albany, are–let’s face it–pretty much an epic fail. The last thing anyone needs is the federal government coming in to “fix” things.


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