Category Archives: Ethics/Philosophy

How would a libertarian/classic liberal deal with the problem of global warming?

A Quora question I answered:

 

Libertarianism is concerned with only one question: Under what conditions may one legitimately use physical force? Answer: to counteract a violation of one’s legitimate property rights (e.g. if someone comes at me with a knife they are threatening my property right in myself and I may repel such attack, if someone steals from me I may use force to get my property back). In other words if someone initiates violence (i.e. aggression) then one may legitimately counteract it proportionally (i.e. you shouldn’t kill someone for briefly setting foot on your lawn).

So, to answer your question, setting aside all the controversy around climate change we will simply assume it to be entirely true and that all the dire consequences imagined will in fact occur. In such a scenario whose property right is being aggressed against? Do future generations have an inalienable right to experience identical weather patterns as we experience them today? Do they have inalienable right to experience Miami beach exactly as it exists today? No. For a right to be a right it exists for all people for all time under all conditions. That’s why one has a right to life, everyone has a right to exist and remain unmolested by others and that condition can exist anytime anywhere. It is a negative right, it does not require the action of anyone or anything. Incidentally this is why “positive” rights, such as to a job, shelter, or healthcare are not real rights, but rather mere proclamations of things we’d like to have. To obtain such positive rights YOU must act to attain those things, one cannot obligate their fellow man to provide it for them. Negative rights only require that we be allowed to do what is necessary to achieve that thing without in turn violating (with violence) someone else’s ability to do likewise.

So if a “right to climate experience” exists then our rights are being violated today as we are all unable to experience the climate that existed say 1000 years ago. Since this is obviously totally unrealistic and unworkable we can see that no such right exists.

So to “combat” climate change one is free to do whatever they believe will minimize it, they can act on their own, they can associate with others and act together (by educating others to in turn get them to change their behavior, or perhaps starting a non-carbon energy company that perfects such energy forms to the point they are less costly than carbon and then naturally everyone simply switches to it – no coercion needed.

Think about it, if non-carbon energy is truly the future then these people should be willing to put their money on the line to invest it, I mean after all climate change is unequivocally going to happen, right? It’s a sure bet. They could make billions. So it is curious that they don’t want to invest their own money but rather use the state to make everyone else “invest” in such things.

They key to the libertarian answer is because there is no rights violation you can’t use violence (i.e. the voting booth) to make a “law” and then force everyone to follow that law under penalty of death (death being the ultimate result if one resists the state’s dictates to the bitter end). But there is nothing at all wrong with engaging in voluntary activity to persuade others to your viewpoint and to act in concert with you.

In short, do whatever you want to solve it, as long as it doesn’t involve the use of someone with a gun backing you up. Which by the way is exactly what a carbon tax or cap and trade entails. These are pseudo-markets concocted by the state. An actual market involves a buyer and a seller who exchange VOLUNTARILY. A carbon tax or cap and trade is no more a real market than a board game is the actual thing it represents: e.g. Monopoly has the trappings of a market economy, but it certainly isn’t one. Cap and trade and carbon taxes are like forcing two people to play Monopoly at gun point and then saying “see, they are following the principles of capitalism, so it’s all ok”

For those that want a truly wonky expert analysis of why carbon taxes are not at all libertarian (the crux of the original question) and why they would not actually do what most imagine they would (reduce carbon) please see this link. In short a carbon tax or cap and trade is simply a new income tax that shifts money from the wealthy to the poor. The poor see no net change in their income so they keep consuming carbon just as they always have (e.g. if they spent $100 on fuel, now with a carbon tax it is $200, but they get a $100 tax rebate, so their net out of pocket does not change). The wealthy have less money and thus less ability to save and thus less capital accumulation that can be used to invest in new R&D, new technologies, new factories, new jobs, etc. It doesn’t stop those things from happening, but it slows it down such that in 100 years we will be x% less well off than we were would have been absent the carbon tax and meanwhile the carbon tax has made zero impact on use cause we just give the money right back to the people using it the most.

Called to serve?

Top military leaders this past week called for expanding the Selective Service System (the registration wing of the currently idle, but easily re-activated, draft) to include women. Their narrative is that it is simply a matter of fairness. Women currently serve in all branches of the military just as capably as men, so at face value there really is no practical reason to continue excluding them from registration. The fact that this is being brought up now may be entirely innocuous; it was bound to happen sooner or later. Or, it could be an omen that signals this country is setting down a path of expanding, not contracting, its role of interfering in the affairs of foreign nations. An expanding global empire after all requires an expanding police force to maintain order. After more than ten long years of endless warfare our currently all volunteer armed forces is thinning out as they are stretched like an ever expanding net around a globe that refuses to be tamed by American hegemony.

The principled position regarding the SSS and the draft for which it stands is that it is an abhorrent violation of the rights of the individual. It treats our sons and (soon) daughters as mere chattel to be deployed by the state for whatever capricious whim those in power decide will benefit them and their cronies – all the while cloaking such moves under the flag of “patriotism”. Some try to claim it is one’s “civic duty” to serve if called upon by their country but that is but a smokescreen; all civic duties are forms of slavery, differing only in degree but not kind from the more familiar chattel slavery (lack of consent is at the heart of the evilness of slavery). Attempts to legitimizing slavery by calling it something noble is a ploy worthy of the Devil but not honest men. We may recoil in horror at stories of armed guerrillas in some far off country kidnapping young men and boys in order to dragoon them into service for their cause – but, in substance, it is no different than a draft into the armed forces of a modern state. A young person, against their will, is forced to take up arms and murder other human beings (or assist in that murder), and if they do not then they are put to death or imprisoned for decades by their own supposed “countrymen.”

Currently the draft is “inactive”, however the law is still on the books and it can be re-activated at a moment’s notice. For those without children between the ages of 18-26 this may not register on your political radar, but believe me, for those of us with children in this age group (like myself) it is cold comfort that it is inactive when we see that our next President will likely be one of the warmongers Trump, Cruz, or Clinton.

Some have argued it is actually beneficial to have an active draft in place, as it makes politicians more cautious about sending the sons (or daughters) of their constituents off to die. However I think Vietnam put the lie to that argument. President Johnson was all to happy to send 58,000 young men to their death in an utterly pointless conflict that had zero bearing on US security. Now consider that conflicts in Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq also have had zero relevance to US security and we see that politicians will never tire of wasting American lives and treasure in fruitless endeavors. All the more reason to completely end the draft and the SSS once and for all. Women should not welcome this kind of equality.

If the US mainland were actually threatened or attacked the problem would not be getting recruits, it would be organizing the overwhelming number trying to join the fight. By and large most feel the instinct to defend what is theirs; after 9/11 recruitment levels sored. Declining numbers in the volunteer armed forces is not an indication of declining patriotism. Rather it is voting by deed, and this vote loudly proclaims the American population does not view with much seriousness the shrill warnings from the ruling class that danger threatens us on every front. Particularly when those fronts are 8,000 miles away.

Living Under the Mirage of Law

Respect for “the law” held by liberals and conservatives alike is entirely a consequence of their own personal stance on its validity. For example, the Supreme Court found in Citizens United that free speech protection does indeed extend to corporations, but since that didn’t sit to well with liberals (who are eager to selectively muzzle corporations they disagree with) they applaud any attempt to undermine that decision. The second amendment guarantees a right to individual gun ownership, but again liberals will hardly shed a tear when local officials defy that right with onerous restrictions. Likewise, Roe v. Wade and Obamacare are settled constitutional law (according to the Supreme Court) and yet conservatives will do whatever they can to subvert the spirit and intent of these laws. With conservatives the cognitive dissonance of unconditionally supporting cops (even when throwing grenades into a baby’s crib) but opposing taxes creates unexpected results. Last year Eric Garner chose to ignore New York’s laws regarding selling untaxed cigarettes and paid the ultimate price for his impertinent obstinacy in not bending to the will of the state (death by cop). And what did the putatively tax-averse conservative do? Rather than commending his act of tax-rebellion, they hid behind a wall of cowardice in proclaiming, “well, the law is the law and it must be followed.” I guess they’re only opposed to onerous taxes that affect them.

Religious conservatives are now all too happy to do a full 180 on the principal of “follow the law” and heap accolades upon someone who defies the law – because they happen to agree with her. Kim Davis, clerk of the court for Rowan County Kentucky, is being held up as a noble heroine for her staunch refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. There aren’t many things one can be sure of in life but of this I am most certain: had the court ruled the other way and we now had a clerk issuing marriage licenses to gay couples in defiance of that decision, conservatives would be quite vocal on the sanctity of the “rule of law” and that officials have a solemn duty to carry out the law despite their own personal misgivings.

At one time the Fugitive Slave Act, Jim Crow, and Japanese internment were law but I dare say you’d be hard pressed to find anyone today who would view people that ignored those laws as being guilty of anything other than heroism. So where does this leave us? If sometimes it really is ok to ignore the law and sometimes it (supposedly) isn’t, then perhaps the problem is not with a societal lack of unwavering respect for “the law” but rather with the laws themselves. This lack of solidarity over what constitutes valid law is merely a reflection of the fact that society is composed of individuals who don’t all agree on everything. That is ok. I have some shocking news: it is possible for people to live together and not be forced to live the exact same way.

Laws of nature cannot be broken; laws of man can. By labeling the latter with the same appellation as the former, society deludes itself into believing the two are equivalent in their capacity to govern human behavior. Man’s laws are that fiction that implies human behavior can be constrained by mere ink. And if ink alone doesn’t work then we now have our excuse to “enforce” its edicts by any means necessary. Law is not protection from aggression but rather an excuse to engage in it – “look, he broke the law, go get him!” Laws against murder, rape, or theft are not what potentially protect us from such acts, rather feedback does. That is to say, contained within the act itself is the basic natural right to reciprocally respond to it (the right of self-defense). The real and certain potential for instantaneous reciprocity is the actual deterrent that keeps criminals at bay, not mere laws.

Rules (laws) are acceptable if one has affirmatively consented to them (and consent does not mean merely being born within invisible walls), but without consent mere ink can not convey the right to aggress against others because they choose not to follow particular rules concerning taxation, social behavior, or other non-aggressive behavior.

There is nothing mistaken in thinking this law or that law is unjust and should be ignored; all non-property rights violation laws are but mere opinion enforced with guns. The real crime here is engaging in the hypocrisy of believing we must live under a rule of law while simultaneously ignoring the laws you don’t like. Don’t be a hypocrite; admit that forcing others to live according to your beliefs is dishonorable and in that moment you will have earned the right to live unmolested by the beliefs of others. If you espouse aggression against others, then don’t come crying when others aggress against you.

Pope Francis: Lapdog of the Ruling Regime

The climate crusaders gained a “useful idiot” (look it up) in their cause this past week in one Pope Francis with the publication of his encyclical “Laudato Si’, On the Care of Our Common Home.”  Apparently the “settled science” and endless “climate shaming” over our “carbon-footprint” has been insufficient to motivate action (that is violence) at a global level – time to bring in the big guns: God. If people won’t listen to reason then let’s appeal to their sense of morality. And if that doesn’t work let’s just bombard them with vacuous nostrums that would embarrass even Deepak Chopra . Writing in his encyclical the Pope states, “There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself.” Flowery prose about a collective (“our”) that exists only as metaphor underscores how our “leaders” perennially view humanity not as individuals but rather as mere clay to be pushed, prodded — and trimmed — as needed in order to reshape the world according to their vision.

As a Catholic myself (this statement now giving me a pass on the anti-Catholic label) I am dismayed by this Pope’s proclivity to not only issue papal pronouncements on issues he is ignorant of (e.g. economics, the climate) but to deliver those messages wrapped in an unabashedly pro-state and curiously un-biblical package. This Pope (and Vatican) have spewed a mountain of anti-capitalist rhetoric over the past few years that entirely misses the mark as to the cause of rising wealth inequality. It is entirely the result of big government and central banks colluding together to inflate the money supply and not, as he says, by “ideologies which uphold the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation.”  This is no mere pontificating on the dangers to the soul of single-minded pursuit of wealth, no, this is full on promotion of Marxist redistribution of wealth. For example from the above quote he further endorses, “…the right of control [of financial resources] to States…”. When he spoke to the UN last year he invoked the parable of Zaccheus as a way to justify the use of “political agents” that can force the “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits.” Wow. I wonder if he wears a Che Guevara t-shirt under that robe.

The Vatican even promotes the concept that evading taxes is equivalent to “stealing” from the state and the poor (because of course it’s all the state’s to begin with and their sole job is to help the poor).  I’m not sure which version of the Bible Pope Francis is reading, but in my version Zaccheus (the selfish tax collector) VOLUNTARILY chose to give to the poor. Jesus didn’t say “do this or else I’ll send the Roman guards after you”.

To underscore this Pope’s preference for state action, his new encyclical distills the fight against climate change down to a simple message: governments everywhere have a moral duty to fight climate change. Yes, you read that correctly. Fighting climate change is now a moral imperative for all mankind. The unique thing about this new flavor of “morality” is its ambiguity. Traditional moral issues (murder, rape, theft) are pretty straightforward: don’t do them. As long as I don’t murder someone, I have upheld that moral edict. But “fighting climate change”? How do I uphold that? What exactly am I supposed to do? If I drive a car that gets 30 mpg am I violating a moral tenet but not violating if it gets 40 mpg? Shall I get rid of my air conditioner (as Pope Francis has actually suggested!) in order to get in God’s good graces? Or should I just follow like a good little subject the climate edicts of my government… which may change with the prevailing winds of the latest computer model. This ambiguity should be more than sufficient to indict its moral status.

The Pope should indeed be promoting ideas of charity, peace, forgiveness, tolerance, and good stewardship. But to then endorse the authority of the state to impose these virtues upon the population is to utterly reject God’s message of salvation via the gift of free will. He gave us free will in order to allow the individual to make his or her own choices (choices which may or may not eventually lead to salvation). Apparently this Pope’s message is, “Do the right thing, but if you don’t, that guy over there (the state) will make sure you do.”

It is absolutely astounding that a Pope would make not just one but two gross theological blunders. First to cloak an ambiguous political issue in the vestments of morality and second to endorse the sacrifice of God’s gift of free will upon the altar of state sponsored utilitarianism. I don’t know whether to laugh at his brazenly sycophantic parroting of regime talking points or to cry for the untold billions that will die in the coming decades due to artificial constraints on energy production and economic output if the chicken little doomsayers like the Pope get their way.

Red Card!

This past week one of my neighbors was arrested by our Homeowners Association for accepting cash in exchange for allowing mere acquaintances of their son to attend his birthday parties. The HOA felt that this base corruption might reflect poorly on the neighborhood. Oh, wait, that didn’t happen. I got that confused with the fact that the U.S. government had several officials from FIFA (an international body governing soccer (or football in the rest of the world)) arrested for apparently being “corrupt” and accepting bribes because on occasion the bribe payments happened to transit U.S.territory. The parallels are uncanny. A member of a private group violated an understood trust relationship established amongst members of that group. An outside third party then felt it was incumbent upon them to throw that violator into a cage because, well, I don’t know why – it’s really none of their business in either scenario.

The FIFA members are accused of committing “crimes” that either have no victim (money laundering) or which are entirely internal conduct matters (bribery). Murder, rape, and theft – sure, feel free to get involved. But I fail to see how simple misconduct or boorish behavior rises to the level of a compelling state interest. The flip side to this corruption scandal that has so far gone unnoticed is that for every corruptor there is a corrupted. That is to say, aren’t the high ranking government officials who paid the bribes out to these FIFA officials just as culpable? That is precisely the area a state body should investigating; the corruption of its own members.

Corruption is not a crime. Corruption is a contract violation, or more specifically, a trust violation. Party A entered into a contract with Party B whereby Party B is to act in the interests of Party A. Trust violations typically occur when there is no unobtrusive way to ensure Party B is always acting in the interests of Party A. For example, if the electorate puts a politician in office to further the interests of the community but instead that politician accepts bribes and acts contrary to said interests, this would be corruption. Should that be illegal? Should that politician be locked in a cage? Or is it not a better solution for the electorate to “fire” them immediately and take back whatever gains he may have acquired? Likewise there can be corruption in a private organization such as a business, club, church or any other similar group. If an employee takes bribes to swing business toward some particular vendor, then the employer-employee trust compact has been violated. That is a dispute between the employer and the employee. If a CEO takes bribes in order to drive business in a certain way, that is a violation of trust between him and the board of directors and ultimately the shareholders. These are all strictly private matters.

The apparent open secret of widespread corruption by top FIFA officials is certainly nothing to cheer about – but it is not a crime. It is a violation of trust that harms the name of FIFA and thus by extension all who are members of FIFA. It is these members that should be pursuing their corrupt brethren, not the US Government. Some might believe that cities that lost out on World Cup hosting bids due to corruption are victims as well, but that is not the case. Such cities are no more a “victim” than is the loser of several men competing for the affections of a single women because the “winner” lavished the women with extravagant gifts. The recourse of a losing city is the same as the recourse you or I have when we discover someone does not deal fairly – refusal to associate. If a friend, associate, or business lies to us, then we can cut them out of our lives. Good riddance.

It is in the interests of FIFA to clean up its act. They may soon find that many cities will no longer trust them and will simply refuse to participate in future FIFA events. This will erode their market dominance and thus the price they can command for participating. If they don’t reform themselves quickly then this corruption will open the door to a new, and better run, organization that can take over FIFA’s role. However, the fact that this corruption has apparently been going on for well over 20 years suggests that perhaps a mountain is being made out of a molehill. We shall see.

In any event, the arrests this week should serve as a reminder of the overpowering arrogance of the U.S.government. They have in many respects taken on the mantra of the One World Government. It exerts its dominance globally both militarily and legally. It can establish whatever arbitrary rules it wishes and then enforce such rules with virtual impunity upon any person, anywhere on the planet at any time. Let freedom ring.

Rape culture, no. Theft culture, yes.

There are a number of word-couplet slogans that aim to pithily define some societal ill that is widely ignored but which demands immediate rectification (white (or male) privilege, social justice, rape culture). The proof of said societal ill? The mere Jehovah-like utterance of said phrases brings them into existence before a credulous audience who only need hear the words to accept the implied truth. Their refutation, on the other hand, requires pages of discourse and facts and who has time for that? Mindless emotion trumps facts and reasoned discourse every time.

Sound bite slogans engage in semantic slight of hand, mixing words and their meaning into a soup of inscrutability. As the great sage Inigo Montoya would say, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”  Perhaps the worst offender among these is “rape culture.” This term is particularly sinister as it establishes its own legitimacy in tautological fashion by claiming that proof of rape culture is found in the very denial of its existence.  Witches must exist because anyone denying their existence is only doing so to cover up their allegiance to said witches.

Users of this term apparently are unaware of what “culture” actually means. The dictionary definition is “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.” Hmmmm… so it seems if we had a “rape culture” that would mean we would find positive depictions of rape in our literature, movies and television. Our political leaders would extol the virtues of rape whenever possible. We would erect monuments to the greatest and most prolific rapists. Our schools would teach boys and girls the virtues of rape. Nope, I don’t see any of that, do you?

Yes, rape is a horrible crime and the perpetrators should be severely punished, but to suggest that 3% of the population who commits 90% of the rapes (on college campuses) suggests an endemic problem in the very fabric of a society is ludicrous. It ironically mimics the very thing proponents of this term decry – victim blaming – by shifting the blame from the perpetrator to society. “Society” should teach men not to rape and thus to the extent rape exists it is tacit proof of the failure of society to teach that. See, the perpetrators are the victims here as well; it’s not their fault, they never got the “don’t rape” memo from society. Honestly, is there anyone alive who thinks rape is “ok”? Even thieves and murders know their crimes are wrong – and yet they do it anyway. Does this then signify we have a “murder culture” or “theft culture”?

Actually, on that last question I would answer in the affirmative. We do have a “theft culture.” How so? Imagine the following: in order to eliminate the scourge of rape from society the government created an incentive system to stop potential rapists. Whenever someone thought about raping they could instead go to the government Department of Gender Relations and receive a payment to not rape. To make this system work all potential rape victims would be required to pay an annual fee into this system. If they did not pay up, then the government would publish a list of their names and anyone could rape them without consequence. Naturally nobody wants to be on that list so everyone pays – just the threat of what might happen for not paying is enough to ensure all continue to pay “voluntarily.”

Does that seem shocking and crazy? Well it should, but unfortunately this exact system exists today in order to prevent a different crime: theft. Government agents who would otherwise violently rob people in order to extract the proper “tribute” payment to the state’s coffers have convinced everyone it is better if we all just pay them “voluntarily.” If we don’t then they can rob us without consequence. So if we all pay our taxes in a “civilized” fashion then there will never be a need to resort to base barbarism. And it’s all “voluntary”, so that makes it legitimate.

The really scary part is that this culture is not unique to America; it is global. People will universally agree that taxes are bad, but quickly pivot to extol their virtues. The parallel to an actual rape culture would be if society would extol the virtues of all the children born as the result of rape and told women they should just accept being raped because yes it is bad, but look at all the good it brings about. One parallel that does exist today between rape victims and tax victims is the odious practice of “victim blaming” – rape victims “deserved” it because of how they dressed and tax dodgers “deserved” jail because they refused to be robbed; both have the right to exist in the world without being victimized on account of the lens through which others view them.

That is the way of the state, instead of standing as a bulwark against rights violations it institutionalizes those very violations and whitewashes them into a sanitized bureaucratic system that like a virus then infects all cultures, transforming them into the “war is peace” and “theft is good” upside down culture of the state.

Tribes

The recent assassination of two New York City police officers by a sick, mentally deranged animal was truly a tragedy. A tragedy not because they were police officers, but because they were human beings. A tragedy not because of the manner of death, but the reasoning behind it. All evidence left behind by the gunmen (who shot himself) suggests he set out on this murderous rampage to get even with “the police” for the Michael Brown shooting death in Missouri. Revenge is an understandable, albeit dangerous and ultimately self-destructive, emotional response when directed at the particular individual that has done harm. But when it is directed at a group merely because that group shares a characteristic with a tortfeasor, that is the kind of wickedness that has inspired genocidal rampages. Actions taken against members of a group ignore the individual’s humanity by abstracting them into an amorphous blob of adjectival phrases. One is not killing a human being with hopes, dreams, loved ones and friends; no, one is killing “the police”, or “a Jew” or a “n-word” or “a fag”. Murder is so much simpler when the target’s humanity is stripped away.

Why is this pattern of “tribe on tribe” killing so common throughout history? Humans have an evolutionary tendency to lump things with a common trait together and then assume that all those things sharing that trait are identical in nature. If a tiger killed my neighbor, then all tigers are deadly. If a snake bit my neighbor and he died, then all snakes are dangerous. Those that recognized distinctive traits and properly categorized the natural world as dangerous or not dangerous and killed the dangerous ones tended to live longer and pass on their genes. Those that thought we should just give all tigers a chance, well, it didn’t work out so well for them. So in a very real sense the human instinct to engage in “-isms” is why we are here today to discuss how wrong it is now. That doesn’t excuse it, it simply helps us understand “why” this trait exists. But this vestige of our evolutionary past, like the appendix, serves no purpose today except in extreme situations (e.g. it’s still safe to assume all tigers in the wild are dangerous). Unfortunately this instinct, like the appendix, is not something we can shed easily, and therefore we must remain ever vigilant against it, lest it become inflamed to the point where the whole species is put at risk (nuclear annihilation).

To remain vigilant we must recognize its many forms. It is not always so neatly packaged into the frothing rants of hate-speech. Sometimes it wends its way into our psyche like the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. Any sort of tribe mentality, such as the “us vs. them” fervor at a team-sporting event, has the potential to lead down this dark path. That’s not to say we shouldn’t cheer for “our” team, but please do recognize the emotions and language of this mindset speak to a tribal instinct: “we” won, “our” team is the best, “their” team is terrible, “their” fans are uncouth mouth-breathers, etc. Most people just pay lip service to these sorts of platitudes, they don’t mean it any more than they literally mean “god be with you” when saying “good-bye”. But there are some that do take such feelings quite literally (soccer hooliganism, post championship vandalism/rioting, etc.)

And let us not neglect to mention sport tribalism’s big brother – state tribalism, e.g. patriotism. Same idea, just a bigger team. Every country’s citizens (the most zealous ones anyway) think their country is the best in the world and that their people are better, in whatever metric you might care to name, than the people of other countries. And like a fractal pattern this mentality exists at all levels. I have witnessed first hand people tell me the folks in their county are better folk than from neighboring counties. Yes, that imaginary line in the dirt makes all the difference in the world.

Fealty to this patriotic instinct is what helps politicians stoke the flames of fear and envy that create an “us vs them” mindset as they seek to not only start wars, but establish all manner of governmental programs that benefit one group at the expense of another. The deaths of these police officers was indeed a tragedy carried out by an individual inspired in part by the fervor of tribalism. But let us not forget that any actions inspired by tribalism are evil, whether done by the many against the one, or the one against the many.

Facebook debate: does the state reduce violence?

Recent crazy Facebook debate (don’t you love those), here is the original link. Basically the debate had nothing to do with the original post, it devolved into a debate by one participant claiming that there is evidence showing how the establishment of a strong state over time has led to decreasing violence over time.

I and others called BS on this and then it got interesting. Since this is my blog I’m just posting my responses 😉 I’ve invited others to continue here if they wish. Enjoy.

 

Response 1: Violent death was an order of magnitude higher in non-state societies before the imposition of the state. This is fact.” – This may be fact but it is meaningless in terms of justifying the supposed violence minimizing effects of the state because all things are not equal. Violence is simply a tool that is a means to an end and it has an associated cost. Mankind’s ever improving level of technology (tools) makes our tools more efficient and less costly to implement, however violence always carries with it the same potential cost (ones own potential death or injury). In other words non-violent means to achieve our ends have been getting cheaper and cheaper over time when compared to violent means. So a couple of hundred years ago one could spend months farming 12 hours days or one could pick up a rock and bonk the local farmers over the head with it. Which one has a lower cost in terms of labor expended? 

Today initiating violence against someone for food would be absurd considering our efficient ability to create it means food is just about dirt cheap in comparison to what it was even a hundred years ago. Violence still occurs today but it is much more rare because it only occurs around those things that have a very high cost… so violent means are still “cheaper” means to achieve those ends. But the overriding fact is that as the standard of living goes up violence goes down irrespective of whether the society is state based or non-state based.

Response 2: @Jeff Cav – Why do keep bringing up Somalia? I didn’t bring it up at all… but if you must, Somalia is not at all an example of a stateless society nor is it even a good comparison if we were to accept that it is stateless. First you do have states there, that’s why there is so much chaos and disorder, because the nascent states within that region are all fighting with each other for dominance/control of the entire region. That is, the essence of what a state is is alive and well there – a group of self-appointed thugs that want to control and dominate the lives of others and skim their cut off the top from the populace in the form of “taxes”. There are just many of them all fighting within the borders leaving behind the chaotic landscape we see. Secondly, Somalia was poor and undeveloped when it had a state, it is still poor and undeveloped when so many now say it has no state… so how can you compare a poor undeveloped region to say the US and say “see clearly the US has a strong government and that’s why we are prosperous and Somalia now has no strong central government and they are poor and violence ridden because of the lack of that government” There is no ceteris paribus comparison here at all.

Moving on….although I will grant that it is at least theoretically plausible that a strong centralized authority (the state) could decrease incidence of violence within its borders (due to the “one gang to rule them all” effect), this is kind of pointless – it’s like saying we can eliminate all health care costs by simply killing all the sick people. As with Somalia, all organized violence stems from proto-states warring with each other… so yes, if one big proto-state comes along and crushes and kills them all (their leaders anyway) then that type of violence will disappear from within its borders. But to any extent where this is true it is completely more than offset by the enormous rise in violence made possible by larger organized states when they go to war against each other. ALL wars are only possible because of the existence of states, such organized killing on such a mass scale could simply never happen in a purely free and stateless society (what’s the point -it’s bad for business to kill your customer). So to the extent intrastate violence decreased, extra-state violence shot up orders of magnitude beyond that.

So what’s the solution? A stateless voluntary society. This solution does not assume everyone will be angels and there will be no violence, in fact it works just fine under the assumption there will continue to be bad people that will try to control others through violence. The response to such people is that everyone will have VOLUNTARILY joined insurance or protection agencies to keep them safe from those that would aggress against them (the precedent for this actually existed in Somalia and ancient Ireland: the clan system kept people in line VOLUNTARILY). These associations would not need to be held along geographic boundaries (just as people are members of disparate religions today all around the world side by side). Kind of hard to have a war if your members are mixed in with those you supposedly want to fight. The stateless society would of course not be perfect, it’s composed of imperfect humans… but it is far better than the state based society from an ethical standpoint and a consequentialist standpoint. The stateless society would eliminate war from this planet IF the entire planet adopted this system. I’m not saying this will happen today or even in a hundred years, merely that it should, that it is the ideal… and isn’t that the point, to strive for the ideal, to strive for the goal, even if unattainable today, we should always continue on that path until someday we get there, otherwise, what’s the point, we might as well just accept we are slaves and get back to picking the cotton for our master (the state).

Response 3: @Bruce – I don’t see where anyone in this thread said or implied that adherence to the ideal libertarian philosophy of a stateless voluntary society would _always_ bring about the ideal outcome and that a state-centered society will _always_ bring about the worst possible outcome. The argument for the libertarian ideal is from an ethical standpoint, not a consequentialist one. Theft is wrong – but it is also entirely possible a thief could steal and use those stolen funds for a better purpose than the original owner, perhaps to save a life, perhaps to start a new business that improves peoples lives – all of these things could and sometimes do happen. So in the same way as the blind hen sometimes find corn, sometimes the state manages to improve things on net. But that doesn’t make it right. That doesn’t make it ok. That’s all that is being said. However the state does get things wrong or screwed up way more frequently than it ever gets things right so it is very very easy to poke holes in arguments in support of it. Even those things you cite as being obvious benefits of the state (codified property rights, stable courts, etc) that libertarians should be thankful for can easily be shown to also be provided just as well not by a monopoly but a range of suppliers of those goods. To deny that more one entity can provide those things is to deny the possibility of anything other than a single global government. If 250 countries can provide these things, then why not 2500, or 25,000? There is no non-arbitrary method to determine the “ideal” number of competing political units providing their own unique take on property rights or courts. Saying we should be thankful to the state for these things is like saying slaves should be thankful to their master… I mean the master after all provides his slaves with food, clothing and shelter, right? Without masters, how will the slaves feed, clothe and shelter themselves? Without the state, how will people solve their own interpersonal disputes. The statist answers: they can’t, it would never ever occur to any humans to peacefully solve disputes through a court based system… we need special super intelligent humans to show us these things and force us to engage in them, these wise overlords know better and will show us how to run our lives, for without the state we are as but children.

Response 4: @Bruce  Sorry, if your response was more tongue in cheek I guess I missed that… tone is one of those things very hard to discern sometimes in forums such as these (and even email as well!) As far as your response… I didn’t think nor did I intend to accuse you of an sort of absolutism (e.g. “always” do this or that)… my comments were meant to be more generic in nature (i.e. when some people say such things, this is my response).

I’m not questioning your or anybody’s right to voice their opinion and say they think Jeff’s comment have some merit… I’m just saying I disagree with anyone that would say the idea has merit… maybe I’m wrong, who knows, I don’t think so of course or I wouldn’t open my mouth, I’m just saying I don’t agree and it is because of X, Y and Z. Simply because a bunch of us all do the same thing is not evidence of some grand conspiracy by libertarians to denounce and keep out all dissenting opinions – it is exactly the same response you would see from any opinionated group about any topic they hold strong opinions on when someone proposes a dissenting opinion. Try going over to a paleo group and discuss the merits of non-paleo diet… you’ll see the same kind of fervor in the response. In other words this is not a unique libertarian trait – it’s a human trait. If actual good logic or data is used to support the dissenting view some will just ignore it and some will incorporate that information and change their view.. but in this case it is my view there is no such good data as the data presented is easily debunked via an alternate analysis that is much simpler (Occam’s razor approach here)
The parallel of fundamentalism you bring in is an interesting one and I think it helps me make my point here. I see that those that we libertarians (anarchists?) would label as statist as being the political functional equivalent of a religious fundamentalist. Those apodictic beliefs are based on faith alone, they believe X to be true because they believe it to be true. For that kind of knowledge nothing can ever prove it to be wrong (i.e. I love my children, no one can prove that is not true, science can’t prove God is not real, it may not require a God, but that is not the same thing as actually proving one does not exist). Unfortunately the statists hold this type of faith based belief over subjects that are subject to falsification through inductive or deductive reasoning. When confronted with proof of their errors they squawk and hurl epithets and ad hominem attacks while slinging supposed “studies” that prove their case with cherry picked data in order to bolster their faith.
Most of what the libertarian “believes” in is based on inductive logic (economics) or a logically coherent philosophy (self-ownership) and should not be up for debate at all but sadly is due to religious fervor of the statists of the Keynesian denomination who attempt to use empiricism to falsify inductive logical truths. In other words if someone could logically prove some of what we libertarians adhere to is incorrect, we would (as scientists) change our views (well the intellectually honest would anyway). But the statist is unswayed no matter how much who show them to be wrong or misguided.
So when people question someone who makes a claim that here is an example where the state has actually done good and thus this is justifiable reason for a state we have to call them on it because based on our knowledge of these things we know this interpretation can’t be correct – this is not “faith” it’s call understanding of the knowledge framework. It’s like if you understand the theory of evolution and a creationist says “oh we found this thing and it disproves all of evolution therefore our view must be correct” not only does one have a duty to point out to them that (a) no, that data fits in with the theory like so and (b) even if that data were inconsistent with the theory it means we modify the theory as needed to fit the data, we don’t just dispose of the whole thing. Statists do the same thing, they want to say “oh, see the state did this one good thing that we don’t think would occur under your system, therefore your entire framework is wrong and the whole thing must be discarded” We libertarians can’t even get away with that approach – we can point out hundreds of things the state system gets wrong and yet somehow that doesn’t seem to invalidate it at all in the mind of the statist… so it’s odd that the statist seems to think they just need to find one example where they believe the consequences of a state based outcome are superior to the perceived possible outcomes of a non-state based system and that will then disprove all of libertarianism.
Now you then said “You’re tacitly agreeing that Jeff was right in his assertions while decrying that outcome as irrelevant because it did not conform to the libertarian ethos. I.e., that may have been the outcome but the outcome is bad because it’s not libertarian.”
No, that’s not what I said, but maybe I wasn’t clear enough. I said his interpretation was not absolutely impossible, just that it was less likely to be the principal cause relative to the cause I outlined. But even on his own terms he’s wrong. Even if we said the state is responsible for 100% of all decrease in violence in whatever time frame is being discussed, the decrease in intra-state violence is completely overwhelmed by the increase in inter-state violence (tens of millions dead in the 20th century alone from wars). War being completely a function of the state we can then ascribe all those deaths to the existence of the state. But my secondary point was not as you say the “outcome is bad because it’s not libertarian” – I said the outcome could even be good – (the ends) – but the means are still invalid.
Maybe that is the the core of the matter, libertarians are very focused on the morality of the means, whereas the statist is totally focused on the ends. Some might say the moral statist tries to balance the two (the individual rights vs the collective good), but I’m sorry, I just have to call bullshit on that. No one is wise enough to balance those things, and no one has a right to choose how they are balanced. Maybe my organs will save 10 lives… does anyone except me have the right to “balance” my right keep to my organs and live against the greater good of saving 10 lives?

And Justice for All…

The 19th Century saw an end to chattel slavery. The 20th Century saw an end to conscription slavery. Will we now, in the 21st Century, witness an end to the one remaining form of labor slavery, namely jury service? For those that do not consider jury service to be a form of slavery consider this: If a complete stranger sent you a letter ordering you to appear at a specific location at a specific time, what would you think? What if that person then also threatened you with imprisonment if you did not comply and with physical violence if you resisted the enforcement of compliance and you knew full well they could carry out that threat? Who would that person be, if not your master? The State is your master; the judge is merely its errand boy and the police its henchmen.

So if jury service mirrors the master-slave relationship and is thus a variant of slavery, why is there is no public outcry? Why the quiet acquiescence to our own subjugation? There are two reasons. Cost and confusion. The costs of jury service over one’s lifetime are relatively low (since many are never called and those that are get called only 2-3 times over a lifetime). For example, if the state imposed a new tax whereby everyone paid $10 a year and a randomly chosen 10 people would pay $100,000 instead, it simply would not be worth it for the vast majority of people to fight that. The odds you’ll be hit with the “big” tax are infinitesimal and the $10 tax isn’t costly enough to fight. Just because one puts up with something doesn’t mean it is ok or that consent is implied. It simply means that the costs of fighting it are greater than the burden imposed.

But if low costs are not enough to keep the masses in line, the state can rely on the modus operandi of the con artist: manipulate and confuse your victim into choosing to do your bidding. This is accomplished through public school mediated state sponsored indoctrination that convinces the masses that there exists this mystical thing called “civic duty” and that jury duty falls chief among those. There is no such thing as “civic duty” – we as individuals owe nothing to society by mere virtue of having been born and likewise “society” owes us nothing in return. Our only obligations in life are those that we explicitly consent to (employment, parenting, volunteering, etc.) But even if one does believe in the “civic duty” of jury service, does it not strike you as odd that everyone else in that courtroom (the judge, the lawyers, the bailiff, the court reporter, etc) are all there voluntarily and are being paid market rates for their service, yet the jurors are there involuntarily and are paid well below even minimum wage? Given that jurors by and large are present involuntarily the entire incentive structure of jury service is geared toward producing a low quality product as quickly as possible. That is not to say in ALL cases jurors behave this way, simply that most of the time that will be true since most of the time people just want to get back to their own lives, jobs, etc.

There are two ways the jury system can be improved. Just as we did with the military, we can move from a conscription-based model to an all-volunteer based model. I was called for jury duty last year and found the process to be fascinating. The timing was terrible so I was glad to be dismissed. However that is not to say I would be opposed to volunteering in the future. The point is I would be making the choice of when and where I serve.

The second method to improve the jury system would be to switch to a professional juror system. There is no reason that being a juror cannot be a full time paid profession just like any other. Think of it not so much as a panel of jurors and a judge but rather a panel of 13 judges with one judge guiding the proceedings. Those judges/jurors that gain a reputation for judicious verdicts would be sought out and used for more and more cases. Those that likewise had a poor reputation resulting from their unfair verdicts would cease to be used.

Today’s jury system is an anachronism. It pays homage to an era when the abuse of natural rights was commonplace. A slave may work under threat, but an employee works by desire. Which system do you want delivering you justice?

Economic Slavery

I have a proposal. Since we as a society permit children to inherit the accumulated wealth of their parents (unless you are “too” wealthy, then we take half of it!) then isn’t it reasonable that children should also inherit the liabilities as well as the assets of their parents? Currently if assets exceed liabilities then there is a positive inheritance. If liabilities exceed assets then there is nothing to inherit and the creditors and thus society end up paying (by passing those losses onto everyone else). Surely the children should be the ones to carry the burden of those liabilities since they must have benefited to some degree while under their parents’ guardianship. After all the parents made a life long investment in their children, so it’s only fair that that investment pay off. It would not have to be overly burdensome; it could be paid back over decades. And if those children happen to pass on then they would simply pass those debts onto their children, and so on until eventually all debts are repaid.

Anybody think this is a reasonable and sound idea? I’m hoping not. I’m hoping everyone views it as completely unreasonable, unfair and immoral. For a child to be born into this world saddled with the obligation of repaying debt that they had no part in incurring is the a most insidious kind of indentured servitude.

So if we all (I hope) agree this is unreasonable, then why is it considered reasonable when a group of individuals (society) through their proxy (government) borrows and thus incurs liabilities that are then simply passed on to their collective progeny in perpetuity? We frequently hear about how terrible it is that we are passing onto our children our debts of today. Well, we’ve been doing this for a long time, and as one of those children from 40 years ago, I have to say I really don’t appreciate being asked to pay higher taxes now to pay off the debts incurred by our government during the Nixon – Reagan administrations. As a child I had no vote, I could not give consent either legally or mentally, and yet I and everyone else my age are now asked to pony up a whole lot more in taxes. The left pontificates that that is the “responsible” thing to do. Hogwash. I have no moral obligation in repaying debts that I did not even have a voice in. The “responsible” thing to do is to simply cut spending in non-critical areas. Surely EVERYTHING government does can’t be critical.

If something is morally wrong at the individual level then simple logic dictates that it is still wrong when a group of individuals does the same thing. Right now we have a nearly $15 trillion IOU that will have to be repaid at some point, but not by those that enjoyed the benefits of those debts, but rather by those that will have to greatly sacrifice their present benefits (lower standard of living) in order to repay that debt. That is simply another form of slavery: economic slavery. It must be abolished.