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This is the archive for January 2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Imagine two cities in which you might try to, among other aspects of living your life, start a small business out of your home selling trinkets to people, in order to supplement the income from your day job.

In the first, there may be gangs roving the streets who might decide to break into your house, steal everything in it, and maybe even try to rape or kill you. If they do, the police will not come, you will not be able to have the gang arrested, nor to have your case heard in the city's courts. If they get to be too much of a threat, you might have to buy some guns, train yourself and your family how to use them, install security around your house, make agreements with your neighbors that you will each protect each other from these gangs, and/or hire a private security company to help protect you.

In the second city, there are also gangs roving the streets who might decide to attack you as well. But when they attack you, they have devices that let them trivially get past your security and to render your guns ineffective, the neighbors are helpless to do anything, and it turns out they actually run the security company you hired. This gang, when they decide to attack, will not only take everything they can find in the house, but possibly the house itself, and everything you have in your bank account. Not only that, but once they've finished their initial attack, now that you are on their radar, they will come back over and over again, with you still utterly defenseless, and take everything you've managed to acquire since they cleaned you out the first time. But you probably haven't acquired anything, because they've also threatened your boss that they'll do the same to him if he keeps paying you, and likewise threatened every other boss of every other company the same way.

But, in this second city, there is a way to mitigate this risk as well. The gang comes around one day (before they've attacked anyone), and tells you (and all the neighbors) that they will not attack you if you do the following: give them a bunch of money right now; give them partial ownership of your business, including a cut of the profits, the right to examine the books, and the right to set the business's policies and procedures; promise that if you quit this business, you will ask them for permission before starting another one - and give them the same partial ownership of that one; give them a part of any other money you earn in the future for the rest of your life; make your bank account a joint account with them in case they decide they want the money in it anyway; pay them to "babysit" your kids for several hours a day until they are grown up; and agree that they can add more demands anytime they want. And even then, they may decide to attack you anyway, you'll never have any way to hold them to their promises.

Of course, you can always take your chances that they'll never pick you as one they'll attack. But if you refuse their deal, you'd best lay low and not do anything that will attract their attention. Things like starting a business or putting a lot of money in your bank account, or even just going outside at night, could be the thing that alerts them.

Which city is the most lawless? Which city would you prefer to take your chances living and doing business in?

Oh, I forgot to mention one aspect of the second city's gang that might make their life-long terrorizing of you and the neighborhood seem not all that bad. They come around to the neighborhood every so often with a questionnaire asking for your advice on how the gang should manage it's finances and other business, and on a selection of people being considered as the new gang leader. So, if you don't like what they are doing, it's really just your own fault.

Does this sound familiar? It should. The second "city" is the one you are living in right now. The first could be described by the term "anarchy" - the prefix "a" means "without", and the root, "archy", is from the Greek word for roving gangs who systematically terrorize people throughout their entire lives while telling them it's for their own good. It might seem risky, but compared to the alternative, you could probably manage to stay fairly safe.

Hat tip Balko via Coyote

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I’m a power hungry son of a bitch. It is my life’s work to amass as much power as I possibly can. I will gather power to me in any way I can. In fact, I aim to become the most powerful man on the planet. And I believe I can do it. And when I’ve gained what others may think is enough power, I will seek even more.

My culture and values are superior. I will preserve and defend my values and my culture, and use my power to increase their influence, and to thus amass even more power.

I will oppose with all my will those who oppose my power, those who would try to substitute their values, and their culture for my own. I will take from their values and cultures that which serves me, and discard the rest. I will take benefit from the power of others when I can turn it towards the service of my own power, and work to negate their power when it works against my own.

I want to be the ultimate ruler.

Astute readers should have one question in mind: Ruler of what? Superior… to whom? Power over what?

I wrote, a year or two ago, the following:
If your self-esteem is dependent on how others see you, then people like me will always have power over you. But people like me don't want that power. Power over others is of no value to people like me.

Power is incompatible with connection, cooperation, friendship. I don't hate you, I don't reject you, and I'm not out to get something from you, but you're of little value to me if I have power over you.

The answer to the question, the context that was purposefully left out, is: myself, myself, and myself.

And I meant every word of it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

In which I respond to someone in another (private) forum who claimed that all questions about anarcho-capitalism have been answered, that the state is the only possible source of fraud, and that markets "just do things"...
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Anarcho-capitalist theory is not one of a political, social, or economic system, it exists entirely as a series of informed speculation as to the forms that social, economic, and political order will take in the absence of centralized authority. For all the talk of Friedman's "rights protection agencies" and Molyneux's "DROs", nobody knows just how these services will be provided under market anarchy. That will be decided in the market, and the form they take could be as different from currently popular speculation as blogs are from newspapers - or much, much more.

People can and will be cheated in a market anarchy. The strength of the web of private incentives that we believe will arise from human nature in the absence of government coercion is that they appear to provide a superior method for addressing and remediating such infractions.

Finally, markets don't do anything on their own. They are tools that men use to pursue specific goals. Unplanned effects do arise from markets, and they are almost always, if not in fact always, beneficial. But markets will fundamentally reflect the values of those using them. It is likely that market forces will serve to attenuate the worst impulses of the worst of men, but not perfectly so. The success of market anarchy will depend on the quality of people participating in it, it will not turn evil men into saints. Impose a market anarchy on today's United States, with a population that has long forgotten the principles and values of individual liberty, that is accustomed to ruling and being ruled, and that has largely abandoned their visions of the future for visions of the next weekend, and we will at best end up right back where we started.

We don't have to turn men into saints to have full freedom. We do have to find men who are willing to be men and seek our freedom in society with them, while protecting ourselves from the rest. We have to find a way to set an example that can be followed, not by men who would become the New Anarchist Man, but by men who would strive to become fully the men they were born to be, as imperfect as that necessarily is. There's no utopias. Market anarchy would be far from it, but it would allow them to build the world as they want to see it. Neither of us can predict just how that world would look, and I certainly won't try to tell them how it should look.
Guilt is the most damaging concept ever devised by man. Shame is a valid, healthy emotion. It is the emotion that results from a recognition of having done wrong. Guilt is not an emotion, it is the cognitive self-assessment of ones worth, or value. Shame says “I did wrong”, guilt says “I am wrong.”.

The proper response to shame is not to match your self-worth against your actions, but to make your actions match your self-worth. Others will assess their value of you by your actions, and so the only way to assure that their assessment matches your own is to have your actions match it first. But their assessment is not the main reason to do so. Doing so is the first requirement to being a man capable of acting.

Diminishing your self-worth is pure poison, diminish it far enough, and it’s fatal. A guilty man cannot function as a man, he becomes a puppet, willingly letting others make his decision for him on the basis that he is not competent to make them himself, and not worthy of being the beneficiary of his own actions.

The greatest tool that those who would rule men have is the ability to turn shame into guilt. Your own self-interest cast as “selfishness”. Your own personal tastes and dislikes, cast as not being in fashion. Your production as being exploitative of workers and damaging to the environment. Your material possessions looked down upon because they are not shared by others. The pleasures you take in life called base, animalistic, and not of a purer, higher origin. The to-do list and new year’s resolutions and other duties - usually self-imposed to meet the expectations of others - that remain uncompleted and unmet cast as laziness, incompetence, and a personal failure to be good enough to carry them out.

Anyone trying to impose guilt on you is an enemy to be shunned and neutralized. That person is doing it to try to gain power over you. It may be as petty as trying to make their own guilt less pointed by blunting it’s effects on the knowledge that they are no worse than the next guy. It could be as immediate as attempted dominance in a social or workplace environment. Or, it could be as profound as someone trying to rule your life from a distant center of political power. If life means more than physical survival to you, such a person is trying to kill you.

People have learned to live with guilt, to brush it off and pursue their own interests despite it. But they still carry the guilt, and it makes them hesitate at key moments. They can only go so far, only produce so much, only enjoy so much, before being pulled back by the stretched bungee cord of guilt. They remain confined in a narrow world circumscribed by the trivia of “acceptable” guilt, comforted by the knowledge that their guilt is no worse than anyone else’s, and so they at least don’t have to be guilty about that. But they remain terrified to venture out into the wider world on their own recognizance.

Ayn Rand got it backwards when she described John Galt as “the main without pain or fear or guilt”. Guilt comes first, and it is the cause of pain and of fear. Pain from a wound or a loss is natural. Fear of imminent harm is natural. But these kinds of pain and fear are not what diminishes a man. Fear of guilt, and pain when it is felt, are far from natural, and are wounds that cannot be healed except to remove their source.

You want to be free? Start there. Start noticing when you experience guilt. Analyze whose eyes you’re seeing it though. Analyze why you accept it. Then recognize that none of that says anything about you. When you feel legitimate and earned shame, recognize that it does not have to be turned into guilt. It can be turned toward a better life, and better relations with your fellow man. You’ll notice your self-esteem returning, and your capacity for meaningful action increasing. Recognize that you never have to feel guilt, and you can stop it.

Just stop it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Republican asks for permission to live his life the way he sees fit.

The Libertarian demands it.

And the Neo-Libertarian wants to be the one signing the permits.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I was just struck by a connection I had not made before. A software EULA ("End User License Agreement") is a contract, usually found inside the packaging, or as actual data on the software installation media, that says that opening the packaging constitutes consent to the contract. Most software cannot be returned if the packaging has been opened, so withdrawing from the contract comes at the cost of forfeiting both your use of the product you bought, and your right to a refund.

To the extent that the Constitution is a contract, it is a contract that those born under it only learn the full meaning and implications of after having lived under it's terms long enough to attain the intellectual capacity and experience required for understanding it. Leaving the womb is considered consent to the contract. Returning to the womb is not an option, so declining the contract comes at the cost of moving somewhere else, at your own considerable expense, and abandoning whatever start of a life you've made here.

Nice racket.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mr Levant publishes a conservative newspaper in Alberta, Canada. Some time ago, he reprinted the famous Dutch Mohammad cartoons, and is now being investigated by the Canadian "Human Rights Commission".


I was happy to answer for the conduct of our magazine to anyone who asked -- reporters, readers, the public in general. I probably get asked about the decision once a week, and it's been two years now. But I won't explain myself to the government.




He has several more of these on his site at ezralevant.com.

He is the polar opposite of that piece of shit, Dale Franks, who recently bragged about his experience on a jury that unanimously stole ten years of a man's life because he wanted to sell marijuana.

Dale, a self-described Libertarian blogging under the banner of "Free Markets - Free People", finally got a chance to put his Libertarian principles to real meaningful action with real consequences, and at no cost or risk to himself. Being the Good German that he is, he chose to uphold "public policy" on grounds that jury nullification - the concept of judging the law as well as the facts, a concept that he claims to agree with "in principle" - should not be used to contest laws that he disagrees with.

There's a certain line of thought among Libertarians that it seems can only be explained by having placed the highest priority not on actually changing bad laws, but in having a say in what laws stand and fall. These Libertarians appear to believe that since they will make better choices about the law, that they should have the power to change them. Of course, this is no different than simply seeking power.

But Franks' decision was not even that abstract. No, he chose to actually be party to the enforcement of a law that he thinks is wrong. He acted - not failed to act, not failed to speak out - but actively participated in destroying a large portion of an innocent man's life. And for what? So he could be part of the system, so he would be listened to? He can't be listened to by the system if he works to divest the system of it's power, now, can he? No, it looks like he wants the capacity for, in theory, divesting the system of power while holding on to that power as the source of his capacity.

We see here polar opposite responses to being confronted by the cold, hard reality of what one's principles mean. Levant should get some kind of Howard Roark award, which I guess would leave Franks with a shiny new "Toohey" that he can display on his mantlepiece.

NOTE: I realize looking back over this that I appear to have committed an injustice - it looks like I used Levant as nothing more than a foil to lead into a discussion of Franks, who gets the most space here. The reality is that Levant is so clear and rational that there's little I can add to what he says for himself, and he deserves to be heard in his own words, while Franks is much more expert at obfuscating and rationalizing, and so requires more parsing. The real story here is Levant's heroic stand, and Franks is, to the extent the little worm has any importance whatsoever, here for contrast, having done the opposite of what anyone even remotely eligible for the title of "hero" would do.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I wasn't going to vote anyway, but there was one guy that at least had me tempted, if only slightly. This guy just issued a press release stating that he will be returning perhaps as much as $75,000 of his unused congressional budget back to the House. His chief of staff noted how proud he was that his boss was able to run his office so efficiently.

“Considering Congressman Paul’s efforts helped to land nearly $50,000,000 in appropriations for crucial projects in this part of Texas last year, we are most pleased that we were able to once again get the job done under budget.”

Was tempted - but I knew better all along.

See, craven submission is the only principle that is strictly adhered to anymore. You can only lead people where they already want to go.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

In the wake of the Iowa caucus results, each of the Presidential candidates has begun to re-valuate his campaign strategy. We've obtained leaked strategy files from each of the camps detailing their new campaign promises, intended to be unveiled prior to Super Tuesday.

John Edwards promises that manicures will be covered under his national health care proposal, and that capitalists will not.

Barack Obama promises to support global warming... of our hearts.

Mitt Romney promises a low, low, low down payment and easy financing.

Hillary Rodham Clinton promises to let her mustache grow, to end food aid to the Ukraine, and to make a state visit to Poland. She also encourages her political rivals to consider vacationing in Mexico City.

Rudy Giuliani promises to make the trains run on time, and to not invade Greece without really, really thinking it over.

Mike Huckabee promises to fight global warming so the earth can live another 6000 years.

John McCain promises to introduce legislation requiring the quartering of soldiers in private homes, the one part of his ten-point legislative agenda that he has been unable to complete during his Senatorial career.

Fred Thompson promises that whatever it is the people want, he'll get around to it.

Duncan Hunter promises to stop bothering us, any day now.

We were unable to obtain documents from the Ron Paul campaign, but when asked to enumerate his new promises, he answered only "No".

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And that, folks, is about the full extent of what I care to say about the upcoming farce.