Democracy – The Libertarian Standard Property - Prosperity - Peace Wed, 27 Apr 2016 06:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A new website and group blog of radical Austro-libertarians, shining the light of reason on truth and justice. Democracy – The Libertarian Standard clean Democracy – The Libertarian Standard (Democracy – The Libertarian Standard) CC-BY Property - Prosperity - Peace Democracy – The Libertarian Standard TV-G Stamping Out Dissent Mon, 22 Jul 2013 22:46:57 +0000 NewMarianneStampMy fixation on female national personifications continues:

Socialist president François Hollande has successfully courted controversy in his Bastille Day announcement of a new national postage stamp.

Since 1944, each new French president has chosen a new illustration for France’s postage stamps — always an image of Marianne, the Phrygian-hat-wearing feminine symbol of the French Republic (the way the UK has Britannia and the US used to have Columbia before Uncle Sam elbowed her aside).

"I decided following my election," said Hollande, "that the Republic’s new stamp would have the face of youth, that it would be created by youth, and that it would be chosen by youth."

Chosen by youth? Check. The design was chosen from a list of 15 finalists "preselected by a jury that included schoolchildren." (The French, by the way, are very candid about the importance of the French school system for indoctrinating children. They are much more comfortable with the idea than most Americans seem to be. French schools must instill "republican values." This is what always comes up in discussions of homeschooling and laws against Muslim girls wearing veils.)

Created by youth? Maybe. The stamp was designed by 34-year-old French artist and gay-rights activist Oliver Ciappa, who says the new stamp "blends elements of Renaissance art, French comics, Japanese manga, and US animation from the 1950s."

Face of youth? Previous models for Marianne have included Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve. Hollande and Ciappa decided to go a different direction. And this is what is causing the controversy. The new Marianne is inspired by 23-year-old Inna Shevchenko, a leader in the Ukrainian feminist protest group called FEMEN.

Shevchenko has just been granted political asylum in France.

According to the Atlantic,

The flamboyant activist ran afoul of Ukrainian authorities after cutting down a cross with a chainsaw in central Kyiv, wearing only skimpy shorts, in support of jailed members of the Russian punk feminist collective Pussy Riot.

"It’s great to enter history in this manner," said Shevchenko. "But the nicest part of it is that now every time a homophobe, a fascist, or an extremist in France wants to send a letter by mail, he will have to lick Femen’s [backside]." (The BBC reports that she used a much ruder word than "backside." My francophone wife guesses that Shevchenko really said cul.)

The US Postal Service has had its share of stamp controversies. Thin Elvis versus fat Elvis comes to mind. But it seems like the French president is deliberately seeking to provoke a large segment of the French population — the ones who didn’t vote for him.

Thomas Jefferson, a supporter of the French Revolution and a fan of the French Republic at a time when American republicans were divided on the question of France, famously wrote,

To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical.

I guess we should not be surprised that a Socialist president would beg to differ. So would almost all American politicians.

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.)

]]> 3 Interviews Science Fiction Author David Brin Tue, 01 May 2012 07:02:08 +0000 David Brin is the author of science fiction novels The Postman, the Uplift series beginning with Sundiver, and others as well as the ever-popular nonfiction work, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?. He recently sat down with’s Tim Cavanaugh to discuss his recent criticisms of “dogmatic libertarians,” his hobbyhorse of government transparency, and the subject of uplifting dolphins.

I have much to say about Brin’s attacks on “dogmatic libertarians,” by which he means followers of Murray Rothbard and Ayn Rand who worship property too much, but watch the video first and then continue on below for my commentary.1

I’ll state right up front that I do not think of Brin as a libertarian, much less as a heretical one (as he describes himself). To the extent that he is right on anything, he’s not telling libertarians anything new. As for the rest, I’ve seen enough on his blog and various social networks to come to the conclusion that he doesn’t understand the actual positions held by principled libertarians (as opposed to the bizarre straw men he’s concocted and attributed to us) and that it’s impossible to carry on a civil, constructive conversation over the internet with him about libertarianism if you disagree with him on the subject. Although he says in the video that he doesn’t want to insult, after he’s already insulted, if you dare to challenge his views about “dogmatic libertarianism,” prepare to be mocked and insulted and misinterpreted and talked past.

Brin says, “The issue should not be government. It should not be unalloyed and unlimited idolatry of personal property,2  which is the path that the libertarian movement has gone down.”

I have no idea what he means by “unalloyed and unlimited idolatry of personal property”3 and I’ve yet to see him give a clear explanation of this magic-talisman phrase he bandies about like a Hammer of Refutation. I can’t imagine what problem he sees in upholding private property rights. He seems to think our “unalloyed and unlimited idolatry” somehow leads to oligarchy, but I’m at a loss as to how it is supposed to do so. I can only assume he thinks it means we must uphold “rights” to even unjustly acquired property, but this is simply not so.

The phrase is also code for “Hey, man, let’s be practical; sometimes one has to make compromises, break a few eggs to make an omelette.” Those who want government solutions to perceived problems hate it when libertarians stand on principle and refuse to budge. It drives them into uncivilized fits of apoplectic, frothing rage.

Brin also seems to think that so-called “dogmatic libertarians” have lost sight of the importance of competition and transparency and whatnot. Uh… No. No, we haven’t. I don’t know where he gets this stuff from. We see private property rights as making fair and creative competition possible in the first place; and we value fair and creative competition greatly, especially those of us who see intellectual property as illegitimate government grants of monopoly privilege that can only be enforced by infringing on the pre-existing rights of others to their physical property.

“Libertarians need to be reminded that, across 6,000 years, the greatest enemy of free enterprise, of market enterprise, innovation, creative competition… have always been oligarchs,” says Brin.

No… No, we don’t. But mayhaps you need to be reminded that all forms of government, not just the one labeled oligarchy, are ultimately ruled by oligarchs. It’s in the nature of the state. You know… that organization you said we shouldn’t concern ourselves with. Theory and history show us that it is through the state that oligarchs acquire and exercise their power. Without it, they are impotent. It is the state, always ruled by oligarchs, that has been the greatest enemy of free markets, free enterprise, innovation, and fair and creative competition.

The Pyramid of Oligarchy

The Pyramid of Oligarchy

In the video, Brin lays out a plan to rein in government growth, corruption, and “abuse.” Here’s a summary: Let’s draft 10,000 average Americans into a pool every year. Excuse Brin’s poor choice of words; this “draft” is one that can be refused without penalty (although an opt-out system is an unnecessary hassle for people and is frowned upon by savvy Netizens). We’ll then do background checks on this pool of candidates to winnow it down to a list 1,000 trustworthy, loyal citizens who can keep their mouths shut. Give them security clearances and arm them with a badge that let’s them get in any door in the United States of America — you read that right, any door. They are tasked with watching the watchmen. There will be penalties for revealing “anything about anything the’ve seen.” Brin suggests a mere month in jail. The idea being that spending a month in jail will be a price worth paying to patriots in order to bring truly heinous acts of government out into the light so that they can be stopped.

What was interviewer Tim Cavanaugh’s response to all this? “Huh. Okay.”

That’s it?

This didn’t immediately strike him as a terrible idea? He didn’t think or, better yet, say: “Gee, this can’t possibly go wrong.” Not a single problem with the proposed system immediately sprang to mind that he could ask Brin to address? Or did Cavanaugh just not want to ask the celebrity any tough questions?

I’ll just toss a few ideas off the top of my head into the ring for consideration:

  1. Who is going to administer this new system of citizen-watchmen — the lottery for the draft, the background checks, security clearance decisions, and so on? Oh, that’s right — the government. Despite Brin’s talk about non-governmental, or market, solutions to problems, his proposal is a government solution to a government problem (government failure).  What? You need me to flesh the implications out for you? Okay…
  2. It means the creation of a new bureaucracy or ratcheting up an exsiting one. Either way, a WIN for big government and more spending! That’s what we libertarians are fighting for!
  3. Who’s to say the penalty won’t be ratcheted up over time like the income tax? Thus decreasing the risk to government officials that their secrets will get out?
  4. The selection process couldn’t possibly be rigged or gamed, could it?
  5. No citizen-watchman would ever take a bribe to keep quiet,  surely.
  6. Or stay mum in the face of threats to himself or his family… right?
  7. Brin’s proposed system entails acclimating Americans to increased government surveillance of and deep-probing into their public and private lives. Oh, and revisit #4-6 in light of this. Worse, it might come to be seen as a patriotic duty to accept such scrutiny from the government.
  8. Brin says there will be penalties for revealing “anything about anything the’ve seen.” I hope he’s only referring to classified or top secret, not unclassified, information here. Let’s take him charitably and assume he is; how much do you want to bet that this will lead to more and more aspects of government becoming classified so as to have the threat of the penalty for revealing what is seen hanging over the citizen-watchmen’s heads for matters of less and less importance to the “national interest”?
  9. The system Brin proposes is likely to make people more complacent about government in the same way and for the same reasons that democracy fools them into believing they’re ultimately in charge and that regulations encourage them to abdicate responsibility for the quality of the goods and services they buy, for their own safety and security and that of their families, and so on. “Hey, man, there’s a system in place to make sure our representives and public servants do what they’re tasked with doing and to weed out corruption and bad secret policies and stuff. They have enough volunteers. I don’t need to waste my valuable  Celebrity Apprentice–watching time ((Bread and circuses! Bread and circuses!)) worrying about it. Did you see what happened last night? Aubrey O’Day is soooo right. She’s the only one with any talent on her team. Nobody else every has a creative.”4
  10. Brin doesn’t  mention monetary compensation for being a citizen-watchman. Is it likely that as many as 1 in 10 draftees will not only accept being drafted but pass the background checks to qualify for a security clearance? A much larger pool than 10,000 might be needed. And might there not be a selection bias in who chooses to accept the responsibility after being drafted? No potential for abuse there?
  11. What if the citizen-watchmen are generally okay with things libertarians would deem heinous? In light of the direction this country has been headed lo the past couple centuries, this isn’t much of a stretch, is it?
  12. Brin says that citizen-watchmen will be able to get into any door in the United States. Any door. I hope he means any government door, not really any door.
  13. Let’s face it, Brin’s proposal is a pipe dream. The Powers That Be will never let it happen and the American people are not really interested in that level of transparency in their government — not enough to make Brin’s plan a reality, at least. And Brin has the gall to mock and blame “dogmatic libertarians,” the lapel-grabbing (lolwut?) Rothbardian and Randian wing of the movement, for the Libertarian Party failing to make headway (more than 1%) at the polls in presidential elections.
  14. Brin’s citizen-watchman program will be funded by taxes, and taxation is theft. Oh, sorry, did I grab your lapels too hard?5

I could go on, but what’s the point of continuing to kick a dead horse?

[Prometheus Unbound]

  1. It’s heartening to see that the video on YouTube has more dislikes than likes at the moment. 

  2. The transcript has the words “unalloyed” and “unlimited” in the wrong order. 

  3. What do “unalloyed” and “unlimited” even mean in this context? Can there be alloyed and limited idolatry of personal property? 

  4. My wife subjects me to Trump’s insipid Celebrity Apprentice show on Sundays. We both can’t stand that obnoxious, narcissistic, conniving, overhyped “reality”-pop-star twit. Fire her already! And WTF is “a creative.” The word is an adjective, not a noun! 

  5. I would have placed this item in the #2 position but wanted to make a joke about the lapel thing and it needed context. Again, lolwut? 

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Many Americans don’t pay income tax. Is this a bad thing? Fri, 24 Feb 2012 20:51:57 +0000 Last week, the Heritage Foundation published commentary on the number of Americans who pay income tax, and decried the fact that 49.5 percent of Americans are “not represented on a taxable return.” The Daily Mail then picked up the statistics and announced that “HALF of Americans don’t pay income tax despite crippling government debt.”

To its credit, the body of the Heritage post began with a reference to the “the sharp increase of Americans who rely on the federal government for housing, food, income, student aid or other assistance.” The emphasis of the piece, however, and thus, the emphasis of the other news outlets and pundits who have picked up on the statistic, is that too few people pay taxes.

The increase in reliance on government assistance is the problem here, not a lack of people who pay income tax.

Yet, it has become something of a right-wing talking point to claim that a declining number of taxpayers among some income groups is a nefarious development in American history.

The emphasis on the lack of taxpayers is getting the whole issue backward. The problem is the increase of income from government transfer payments. There is nothing bad whatsoever about fewer people paying income taxes.

The Conservative obsession with getting people to pay more in taxes comes from a preoccupation with class warfare in which it is assumed that if middle-class and wealthy people are paying too much in taxes (which they are), then the solution is to punish low-income people by making them pay more in taxes. It’s allegedly not “fair” if everyone is not being extorted by the state in a similar fashion.

The just solution, however, is to greatly decrease the tax burden of those paying taxes now. In a recent NPR interview, Ron Paul nicely summed up what is actually “fair”:

MR. SIEGEL: This week’s release of Mitt Romney’s taxes and President Obama’s advocacy of a millionaire’s tax raise questions about fairness in funding the government. The first question: Do you believe that income derived from dividends interest or capital gains should be taxed at a lower rate than income earned from a salary or commissions?

REP. PAUL: Well, I’d like to have everybody taxed at the same rate, and of course, my goal is to get as close to zero as possible, because there was a time in our history when we didn’t have income taxes. But when government takes it upon themselves to do so much, you have to have a tax code. But if you’re going to be the policemen of the world and run all these wars, you have to have a tax code. But as far as what the rates should be, I think it should be as low as possible for – for everybody.

It’s a safe bet that Siegel’s underlying assumption behind the question is that in order to make taxes fair, then anyone who is paying a tax bill that is too “low” should therefore have his taxes raised.

The opposite is true, as noted by Paul.

So, when Conservatives get bent out of shape about some people not paying tax, the response should be to demand lower taxes for everyone, not to complain that people aren’t paying their “fair share,” which seems to be the Conservative sentiment.

We might also note that this statistic apparently only applies to income taxes. It says nothing about payroll taxes, which for many middle-class people is by far the largest part of one’s monthly tax bill. Any teenager with his first job notices just how much those payroll taxes take out of one’s paycheck. So, to claim that people aren’t paying taxes simply because they’re not paying income tax is rather disingenuous. Since there’s no such thing as a Social Security or Medicare trust fund, payroll taxes are really just income taxes under another name.

Also, any demand for more taxation is really just a demand for increased government revenue. It’s a call for more money so government can bomb more people, bail out more banks and spread around more largesse to politically well-connected friends.

So, the focus on whether or not “enough” people are paying taxes completely misses the point. The larger point is that far too many Americans receive government benefits. Indeed, recent increases in income as measured by the BLS, reflect increases in government transfer payments, as I’ve shown here.

Ludwig von Mises wrote in Bureaucracy that a system in which a majority of the population is dependent on the government dole leads to an unstable political and economic situation, since a majority of the population then has a vested interest in increasing the power of government to redistribute wealth. While the Heritage article makes some comments in this vein, it nevertheless makes the claim that “The rapid growth of Americans who don’t pay income taxes is particularly alarming for the fate of the American form of government.” Really? By that logic, “the American form of government” would be in danger if the income tax were abolished. Oh, how did America ever survive prior to the 16th Amendment?

There is no doubt that the growth in dependency on government largesse is a serious problem, but that doesn’t mean that any American pays too little in taxes. It simply means that the government spends too much money.

The Conservative reaction to this statistic, however, seem to be: “Hey, those guys aren’t being taxed! Tax them!” This is hardly a phrase that should be uttered by anyone who claims to be for limited government.

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Is an involuntary samaritan good? And can libertarians support a “good samaritan” law? Wed, 22 Feb 2012 22:48:30 +0000 This post is a slightly revised version of two comments I left on the Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog in response to Matt Zwolinski’s post “What We Can Learn from Drowning Children.”

In his post, Zwolinski takes Bryan Caplan to task for arguing that there is not much we are morally required to do for a stranger. Caplan couches his discussion in the context of what we are within our rights to do; in this case, to not help strangers if we so choose. I don’t know if Caplan would go further and say that we don’t have much in the way of unenforceable positive moral obligations to strangers, i.e., things that we should do even though we have a right not to. But I think Zwolinski takes him to hold this. In any case, they’re two separate issues; it is quite possible to be a libertarian who thinks that we do have some unenforceable positive moral obligations to strangers.

But Zwolinski goes beyond making the case for this. He actually argues that we do have enforceable positive moral obligations to strangers, i.e., that we don’t have a right not to help them and that others have a right to force us to do so and, I suppose, punish us if we do not.

Zwolinski also seems to be arguing in favor of “enforceable collective duties,” including wealth redistribution by the state. It sure seems like he is heading in that direction toward the end of his post.

Moreover, part of Bryan’s argument actually counts against viewing those obligations as individual, private duties and in favor of viewing them as collective duties that should be coercively enforced. In other words, Bryan’s given us no reason here to oppose institutionalizing the duty to rescue in the form of a state-funded minimal social safety net.

I hope Zwolinski isn’t arguing in favor of this. Libertarians oppose wealth redistribution by the state.

Given his line of argument in his post, I wonder if he has any principled arguments against wealth redistribution by the state — assuming he is against it, that is. If he does have such arguments, I’d like to see them. It would help reassure many people that bleeding-heart libertarianism really is a form of libertarianism rather than welfare “liberalism” lite. Consider it a challenge.

I”m a virtue ethicist, not a consequentialist or a deontologist. I don’t see that there is any such thing as “collective duties,” much less enforceable ones. I can see a moral obligation to save a drowning child, depending on context — but not a duty, not a universal and absolute rule, much less a law to enforce it.

Moreover, the way Zwolinski frames the debate assumes a modern statist system of law and punishment. What is he going to do to people who break his “good samaritan” law?

Put them in prison? Many libertarians, such as myself, don’t approve of prison systems; they amount to enslavement systems.

Extract restitution? That’s more like it, assuming the obligation is enforceable. But still…

None of this will bring the child back to life. None of this will necessarily force someone to be a “good samaritan.” Indeed, an involuntary samaritan is not a good samaritan.

And how would he enforce the law? Put up CCTV cameras everywhere to make sure everyone is complying with his “good samaritan” law? Encourage neighbors to snitch on one another? That hardly sounds libertarian.

Why not look to boycotting and ostracism as adequate methods of dealing with anti-social people who do particularly heinous things that they have a right to do? You don’t even need a “good samaritan” law for this. It’s purely voluntary and can be quite effective. Just shun the bastards.

I think it’s inappropriate and invalid to generalize moral principles from lifeboat situations and other emergencies and edge cases; a code of ethics is first and foremost for everyday life and we must use prudence in applying it to such rare cases, not the other way round. It’s even more wrong to generate laws from such uncommon cases.

Why is Zwolinski so worried about an enforceable obligation to save a drowning child in the first place? As he says, the passing-stranger-and-drowning-child scenario is “a bizarrely rare occurrence.” Even more uncommon is the passing-stranger-lets-the-child-drown scenario. Is this something we really need to worry about in a free society? Drowning children everywhere for want of a “good samaritan” because “there oughta be a law!”? To riff on Michael Barnett’s point in the comments, the path of the moralistic do-gooder busybody is a dangerous one to start out on; it’s bad for one’s character and leads away from libertarianism.

Zwolinski also wondered,

Why, oh why, does it always have to be about guns for libertarians? Yes, I know that in some ultimate sense, every law is backed by the threat of violence. If you break the speed limit and are sent a fine, and don’t pay it, and resist when the cops show up at your house, and resist very effectively when they try to physically force you into their car, then eventually they very well might take out their gun. But that just. doesn’t. mean. that posting a speed limit sign is the same thing as pointing a gun at you. Or even the moral equivalent of doing so.

No, it’s not morally equivalent; it’s more cowardly. It’s voting for and “hiring” someone else to use the gun.

It’s perfectly valid to ask someone if they would be willing to point a gun at you, and use it, to enforce some statist law or regulation they’re proposing or defending. If they are willing to do so, well, that shows their depravity clearly and puts you on notice that they’re not fit for civilized society. If they aren’t willing to do so, but are willing to vote and pay (or rather, force someone else to pay) for someone else to do it, I think that speaks to a certain level of cowardice and probably in many cases an unwillingless to fully accept what their beliefs entail. The statist-democratic process allows people the illusion that the laws and regulations they favor are voluntary and legitimate. Somehow the state magically transforms actions that we normally consider evil by private individuals into good when performed by agents of the state. The state is the great transvaluer of values — the coldest of all cold monsters.

The reason it always has to be about guns for libertarians is that we’re opposed to the threat or use of initiatory physical force, so when someone insists we have a duty to do something we want to know if they plan to initiate force to make us to do it against our will. If they do, then we know to do evil to impose their values on others, that they’re uncivilized, and that they’re not libertarian. We live in an unlibertarian world full of such people, so yes, it’s always rightfully on our minds. That doesn’t mean we all think there are no unenforceable positive moral obligations. We just like to make sure you will respect our rights first before we enter into largely academic discussions about what one should do in certain rare emergencies.

Maybe I’m becoming a cranky old man before my time, but more and more these days I’m finding these sorts of discussions strike me as unnecessary mental masturbation — something to which I think philosophers and libertarians are particularly prone. Most people don’t see any need to discuss it; they would just jump in and save the child. In the moral (not the political/legal) sense, it’s not a matter of choice — it’s just the right thing to do (HT Mal). Yes, even in the eyes of adjectiveless libertarians.

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Bonner on Government Thu, 15 Dec 2011 02:12:35 +0000 Bill Bonner is absolutely one of the best essayists of our time. Never heard of him? He is the head of Agora Inc., and an impressive entrepreneur in every way. Check this essay and see what you think: The Diabolical Genius that Is Modern Government:

You’ll recall that this series began by pointing out how worthless most “theories of government” really are. They’re not theories at all. They don’t explain anything. Instead, they are just wishful thinking…flattery…and apologia for the elite who use government for their own ends.

The “social contract,” for example, is a fraud. You can’t have a contract unless you have two willing and able parties. They must come together in a meeting of the minds — a real agreement about what they are going to do together.

But what is the ‘social contract’ with government? There was never a meeting of the minds. The deal was forced on the public. And now, imagine that you want out. Can you simply “break the contract?” You refuse to pay your taxes and refuse to be bossed around by TSA agents and other government employees. How long would it be before you got put in jail?

What kind of contract is it that you don’t agree to and can’t get out of? They can dress it up…print out a piece of paper…have a solemn ceremony in which everyone pretends it is a real contract. But it’s not worth the paper it’s not written on.

Also, what kind of a contract allows for one party to unilaterally change the terms of the deal? Congress passes new laws almost every day. The bureaucracy issues new edicts. The tax system is changed. The pound of flesh they got already wasn’t enough; now they want a pound and a half!

Every theory of government we’ve come across is a scam. So we offer a better theory: government is just a way for the insiders to take advantage of the outsiders.

Until the Industrial Revolution, the apologists relied on God to justify government. If one man bossed around another, it was God’s doing they said. The Almighty got the blame. Which was neat and clean as long as you accepted the major and minor premises of it.

But the system came apart for two reasons.

First, it made God look like a fool. Monarchs governed in ways that must have been inexplicable to the “divine right of kings” theorists. Kings were frequently incompetent, murderous and venal. Finally, the theorists gave the theory and the kings the heave-ho at the same time.

Second, the rising wealth and power of the productive classes required a new idea.

Insiders always use government to transfer power and money from the outsiders to themselves. When wealth was easy to identify and easy to control — that is, when it was mostly land — a few insiders could do a fairly good job of keeping it for themselves. The feudal hierarchy gave everybody a place in the system, with the insiders at the top of the heap.

But come the industrial revolution and suddenly wealth was accumulating outside the feudal structure. Populations were growing too…and growing restless. The old regime tried to tax this new money, but the new ‘bourgeoisie’ resisted. It wanted to be an insider too.

“No taxation without representation,” was a popular slogan of the time. The outsiders wanted in.

There never is one fixed group of people who are always insiders. Instead, the insider group has a porous membrane separating it from the rest of the population. Some people enter. Some are expelled. The group swells. And shrinks. Sometimes, a military defeat brings a whole new group of insiders sweeping into power. Elections change the make-up of the core group.

But the genius of modern representative government is that it cons the masses into believing that they are insiders too. They are encouraged to vote…and to believe that their vote really matters. Of course, it matters not at all. Generally, the voters have no idea what or whom they are voting for. Often, they get the opposite of what they thought they had voted for anyway.

But the common man likes the humbug that he is running things. And he pays dearly for it. After the insiders brought him into the voting booth, his taxes soared. In America, with taxation without representation, before the war of independence, the average tax rate was as little as 3% or so Now, with representation, government spends about a third of national income. And if you live in a high-tax jurisdiction, such as Baltimore or New York, you will find your state, local and federal tax bill will run to nearly 45% of your income.

In short, the insiders pulled a fast one. They allowed the rubes to feel that they had a solemn responsibility to set the course of government. And while the fellow was dazzled by his own power…they picked his pocket!

It didn’t stop there. Under the kings and emperors, a soldier was a paid fighter. If he was lucky, his side would win and he’d get to loot and rape in a captured town for three days. Relatively few people were soldiers, however, because societies were not rich enough to afford large, standing armies.

The industrial revolution changed that too. By the 20th century, developed countries could afford the cost of maintaining expensive military preparedness, even when there was not really very much to be prepared for. But the common man was skinned again. Not only was he expected to pay for it, still under the delusion that he was in charge, he also believed he had a patriotic duty to defend the homeland insiders! That is the real reason that the modern democratic system has spread all over the world. It allows the insiders to mobilize more of the resources of the country on their behalf. Nothing can compete with it.

But now the insiders are in trouble. The typical citizen is beginning to realize that he’s been had. As long as the insiders could plausibly promise him more and more benefits, he was willing to go along. But now, growth has stalled. They can’t deliver. The insiders keep borrowing — more than $10 trillion this year alone. Soon, they’ll be out of credit…out of time…and out of luck.

Poli Sci 101, My Ass Wed, 07 Dec 2011 18:55:46 +0000 Roger Ebert gives his two cents (for what that’s worth these days; thanks Fed!) on the Occupy Wall Street movement, if you care to subject yourself to the inane political views of a mainstream-leftist movie reviewer. What I found interesting was the comic at the end of his article:

Poli Sci 101

I have a PhD in political science, and I can tell you it doesn’t take passing Poli Sci 101 to realize that electoral politics is no way to bring about radical change.

One would think the left-liberals in this country would understand that better than most. Obama was their great Hope-and-Change candidate, an alleged outsider destined to change the way corrupt Washington works, and look how he turned out: Bush 2.0. But I guess the memories of unthinking, incorrigible statists are short — extremely short. Their great self-delusion: If only we can get the right people into power…

Parallel Justice in Germany Wed, 31 Aug 2011 15:37:50 +0000 According to Deutsche-Welle, Muslim communities in Germany are often seeking private arbitration in criminal cases, in opposition to the state “justice” system. This apparently alarms some people. It is a common cry among the politically active conservative set that the liberal embrace of multiculturalism is leading to a fragmented Europe. Consider this note from the article, however:

“When a serious crime is committed, German police step in to investigate what’s happened,” he said. “But parallel to that, special Muslim arbitrators, or so called peace judges, are commissioned by the families concerned to mediate and reach an out-of-court settlement. We’re talking about a tradition that’s more than a thousand years old in Muslim societies.”

I wonder how long it will take for someone to claim that the practice of a 1000+ year old tradition is the result of modern liberalism’s undermining of European values? I’m sure they’ll work out a way to prove that in centuries past, Muslims (and other religious groups) in Europe deferred to secular, socialist democracy.

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Sour Grapes: Politicians launch scorched earth campaign against own city in bid to raise taxes Fri, 03 Jun 2011 04:32:52 +0000 It turns our that after the voters of Colorado Springs rejected a tax increase for the city, the city’s politicians ordered their public relations staffers to bad mouth the city and to cast a negative light on the city in national media. Basically, since they didn’t get their tax increase, the politicians were determined to make the city look as lousy as possible in a sort of I-told-you-so campaign that would make the voters sorry for not submitting to their betters.

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette:

After much probing by us, it became clear that [PR Director] Skiffington-Blumberg was given direct orders, after the defeat of the proposed tax increase, to tell the outside media about the most negative aspects of Colorado Springs. The campaign may have cost our city countless tourists and jobs. The Gazette was unable to reach [City Manager] Culbreth-Graft for comment.

“Our strategic plan was to paint a picture of the dire straits of our city budget. If we could not do so locally, we would do so in the regional and national press — though I’d have preferred that it not play out with Diane Sawyer,” Skiffington-Blumberg said, referring to one of several media giants who blasted Colorado Springs.

After she admitted the existence of this scorched earth campaign against the city, by the way, Skiffington-Blumberg was forced to resign by the City Manager.

In the past I’ve noted that Colorado’s constitutional requirements for popular votes approving tax increases have created a sort of local cottage industry in which politicians and their agents manufacture hysterical little narratives in which Colorado is the worst in the nation on everything ranging from education to city parks to traffic. “We’re worse than Mississippi” is a sort of local mantra of the local pro-tax crowd. The voters haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid on this of course, and neither has most of the country’s population since demographic data shows sizable net population gains for Colorado in recent years.

But if this latest story is clear, politicians will say just about anything to get a tax increase, even it it means waging a PR campaign against their own city.

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