January 10, 2013

On Being a Good Political Travel Companion

A quick note on terminology:  I want to clarify my idea of the 'political spectrum'.  A standard, four-quadrant political spectrum can be found here.  For the purposes of this post, I simplify my spectrum down to one axis: authoritarian on top, libertarian on the bottom.  There are valid distinctions between the authoritarian and libertarian left vs. right, but they aren't relevant here.

Libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism seem like they would be naturally aligned philosophies.  In our very state-run world, they firmly agree on one thing: by exercising power at gun-point (as all governmental action does, on the most basic level), government is abrogating the natural rights of the people under its influence; and here on our pale blue dot, there are precious few places outside of that influence. Even in the middle of the ocean or high above the Arctic circle where you're the only soul for hundreds of miles, you're only outside of government influence as long as you stay unnoticed and stay out of the way of the massive, intercontinental powers that be.  In such a world, firmly lodged as it is in the 'authoritarian' end of the spectrum, cooperation between libertarians and an-caps for the mutual benefit of a more free existence can and should be the order of the day.

This, generally, is the case.  Despite clear philosophical differences between the two camps, libertarians and an-caps have a mutual enemy to fight.  However, a tendency can and does develop on both sides to dismiss the others.  Libertarians, when pressed to explain why they don't jump a little further on the political spectrum and adopt anarcho-capitalism, are likely to say something like "I think trying to do away with government entirely is both highly improbable and foolish.  An-caps must admit that, for a few very simple practical problems, government is unfortunately the best answer".  This, of course, infuriates anarcho-capitalists, for whom government (or any use of force) is always unacceptable, no matter what, period.  They then retaliate by suggesting that libertarians are "no better than the statists, because imposing ANY government power is immoral".  These points of contention can lead each side to the conclusion that the other is naive and unreasonable.  Practically speaking, time spent recruiting a libertarian to anarcho-capitalism is time wasted, and vice versa.  There are far bigger battles to be fought against far more numerous opponents for that sort of in-fighting to be productive.

My purpose, then, is to remind both sides that while there are philosophical differences, the reality of the world we live in requires them to be political travel companions, moving slowly against the headwinds of authoritarianism.  It will likely be a very long, very tiresome journey, and bickering can only slow us down and make the journey very unpleasant for both sides.  Some find that their morality, their freedom, are an "all or nothing" affair.  If you advocate a little use of force, you're no better than the individual who advocates the use of much force.  This absolutist approach can and will only be frustrating and exhausting.  Our society will only move slowly away from authoritarianism, and by the time the paths of libertarians and anarcho-capitalists diverge, much will have changed for the better. Some may disagree, but as a libertarian and fellow traveler, I would much rather take a small step towards freedom and claim a small victory than refuse to move at all because the entire venture isn't being taken all at once.

If there is one thing we should all agree on, its that by the time we have realistic cause to disagree, the world will be a much more free place.

September 23, 2011

My Understanding of Frederic Bastiat's 'The Law'

Before reading my musings, you should take it upon yourself to read Frederic Bastiat's 'The Law'. This excellent (and free!) edition is provided by the ever-helpful Ludwig von Mises Institute.

Humans derive three rights from their natural state and needs. Life, liberty, and property. Life is self-evident. Liberty is needed to act in a manner fitting to sustain life. Property is needed to shape into the tools of sustenance for life.

The non-aggression principle derives from these rights. While each human has the inalienable right to life, liberty, and property, he or she may not (in good moral order) violate these rights of others. Aggression here is not defined simply as physical violence. Plunder as well as murder constitutes aggression.

The natural drive to avoid pain and sustain and improve life causes man to resort to plunder and murder. It is evident that any person may act to defend their rights against the aggression of others. The theory of collective action stems from the ability of a group of individuals to pool their resources to more effectively defend their rights against the aggression of others. However, this collective does not take on 'rights' of its own. It is merely a tool for protecting each individual within it. An appropriate analogy is an armored car, rather than a cell. The occupants retain individuality. 

The law, then, is an extension of this collective defense against rights violations. Or, at least, that is the purest intention of the law. In reality, however, the law is an instrument of plunder, a means of including unwilling members to a (probably arbitrary) collective group, and then extorting from them their resources and violating their basic rights. The justification for this is always the 'good of the collective'. This is an inherently flawed notion. There is no such thing as the 'good of the collective'. Remember that the collective is only a means of defending individual rights. As soon as that collective violates the individual rights of anyone within it for the benefit of the rest, it ceases to exist as a moral entity. It becomes a mechanism of violence and plunder with no root whatsoever in the rights of man.

The mistreatment of members of the collective aside, these entities will look outward for more profitable plunder. As other such entities (societies) exist, conflict between them becomes inevitable. Hence the origin of war: externalized plunder and murder for the benefit of the false collective. 

There is no inherent injustice in the concept of a collectively provided system of public goods, from roads and power to health care. However, this system is only tenable if all members of the collective agree to provide this. Clearly, in a modern national sense, this is not the case. We are born, if not unwillingly then without conscious consent, into a pre-existing collective.  This collective has taken it upon itself to provide certain goods in advance, and does not bother to ensure individual consent before plundering to pay for these services. It also often holds a monopoly on the goods which it presumes to provide. 

This national collective is also extraordinarily jealous of its power. Should an individual or group of individuals dare to exercise their right to remove themselves from the collective or try to operate in a collective manner countering the national collective, the 'legal' retribution is swift and furious. Examples of this range from the sweeping, cataclysmic American Civil War to the the small-scale abuse of individuals in the modern day attempting to 'drop out of the grid'. Apparently, the concept of truly private property within the national collective is abhorrent to its perverse, plundering nature.

March 15, 2011

Motivation and a Glorious Heritage

I recently purchased a copy of 'Egalitarianism as  a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays' by Murray N. Rothbard in order to begin brushing up on my academic libertarianism.  I found the conclusion to a particular essay so moving that I feel I need to share it.  The essay is 'Left and Right: The Prospect for Liberty'.  Originally penned in 1965, Rothbard's call for awareness and activity is still poignant nearly a half-century later.

(I know, I know, its a wall of text. Maybe, if you think it'd make this more easily digestable by more people, I'll do a summary/TL;DR).

"What is needed, then, is simply the "subjective conditions" for victory; that is, a growing body of informed libertarians who will spread the message to the peoples of the world that liberty and the purely free market provide the way out of their problems and crises. 
The modern Libertarian has forgotten that the Liberal of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries faced odds much more overwhelming than those which face the Liberal of today; for in that era before the Industrial Revolution, the victory of liberalism was far from inevitable.  And yet the liberalism of that day was not content to remain a gloomy little sect; instead, it unified theory and action.  Liberalism grew and developed as an ideology and, leading and guiding the masses, made the revolution which changed the fate of the world.  By its monumental breakthrough, this revolution of the eighteenth century transformed history from a chronicle of stagnation and despotism to an ongoing movement advancing toward a veritable secular utopia of liberty and rationality and abundance.  The Old Order is dead or moribund; and the reactionary attempts to run a modern society and economy by various throwbacks to the Old Order are doomed to total failure.  The Liberals of the past have left to modern Libertarians a glorious heritage, not only of ideology but of victories against far more devastating odds.
For the Libertarian, the main task of the present epoch is to cast off his needless and debilitating pessimism, to set his sights on long-run victory and to set out on the road to its attainment.  To do this, he must, perhaps first of all, drastically realign his mistaken view of the ideological spectrum; he must discover who his friends and natural allies are, and above all perhaps, who his enemies are.  Armed with this knowledge, let him proceed in the spirit of radical long-run optimism that one of the great figures in the history of libertarian thought, Randolph Bourne, correctly identified as the spirit of youth."

This has really motivated me to get more active, and I'd love to get feedback from you all on it.  

September 13, 2010

A Little Belated Thought on the Iranian Revolution

Hi readers. Its been a long time since I felt the motivation to put a blog post together, but this one felt short and sweet enough to post about without spending hours analyzing and re-analyzing what I had written. I hope you enjoy the insight, and take a minute to remember the Iranian people.

"Now, I am against sending troops to Central America. They are simply not needed. Given a chance and the resources, the people of the area can fight their own fight. They have the men and women. They're capable of doing it. They have the people of their country behind them. All they need is our support. All they need is proof that we care as much about the fight for freedom 700 miles from our shores as the Soviets care about the fight against freedom 5,000 miles from theirs. And they need to know that the U.S. supports them with more than just pretty words and good wishes. We need your help on this, and I mean each of you-involved, active, strong, and vocal. And we need more." - Ronald Reagan, remarks at Annual Dinner of the CPAC conference, 1985.

Not a whole lot to say about this, except that it reminds me of the situation with the Iranian protests last year. (Or was it earlier this year? My laziness is over-powering my fact-checking.)  While sending American soldiers to support the Green Wave business would have been a catastrophe (and I don't think anyone was saying we should have), the Iranian people were reaching out to us. "You stand for government of the people. We are the people, trying to regain control of our government. Send us money, send us supplies, send us a good word."

I wish the U.S. government had, officially, even so much as spoken out in favor of these people.  Obama has the respect of the world's people far more than Bush did.  For him to have remained neutral was a shame.

(Side notes: 1. It was the Iranian protests/uprising that led me to Twitter in the first place. Watching the events unfold in real-time was a fascinating experience.  2. You can read the full set of remarked delivered by Reagan at that dinner here.)

July 23, 2010

Diabolus Ex Machina

Despite the excellent irony of using my blog to complain about this, I'm so sick of technology today. I need to vent about it, and you're a patient, silent audience.

First, the touchscreen on my phone stops working. So I take it to AT&T to get a new one, and I'm told that unless I want to go to Mayfield Heights or Pittsburgh, I can't have it replaced on the spot. I have to call their customer service and have a mailer shipped to me along with a new phone. First of all, screw that noise. I know you have several of the kind of phone I have sitting in the back. Give me one, and order more. Dammit. 

So I call the number, and finally, 5 minutes into the call, the robot informs me that I need the last four digits of the Social Security number of the primary account holder. Which would be fine, except that for my family its not me, its my mom. Who is at work. Fuck you, AT&T customer service. I should have had my new phone a week ago when I drove my ass to your store.

Next, Zipline goes down while I'm at work today (for the uninitiated, Zipline is UA's student homepage service).  The ensuing mob of angry patrons has made my job quite difficult. My job isn't supposed to be difficult. This is minor, but its just one of the pieces of straw breaking my back.

Finally, my computer is evenly split between my Windows 7 partition and my Linux Mint partition. Now, I know all you techies insist on the superiority of Linux. And you know what? For what you're doing, you're right. For what I'm doing, I'll just stick with Windows 7. I wanted the 80-some gigs of space back from Linux, so I went to delete it from its partition and to set up a storage drive. Everything is good, except that Disk Manager refuses to let me create a new drive from the newly Linux-free partition. So, I think, oh, I'll just reboot, I'll bet it needs rebooted, reboot is always the answer!

GRUB loading.
error: no such partition
grub rescue> _

FUCK. I forgot that the boot menu was loading from the Linux partition. Now, this is all my fault. I'm the one that altered the boot file in the first place, and I'm the one that just straight-up deleted the Linux partition. But its still aggravating as hell. Now, I need to find my Linux Mint CD, live boot, and hope like hell that I can reinstall it to its old partition so that I can get the boot menu back.

Once I do all that, I'll still be down 80 gigs of useless, Linux-y space. 

I want a new laptop. And a new phone. Someone want to get me both?

June 11, 2010


Its late, I can't sleep, and I'm not coming up with any deep, profound thing to talk about like I want to. Also, I got tired of trying to properly format the formal book review I was doing. So instead, I give you some fun facts from the books I was GOING to review. I can assure you, though, that I thought that they were all excellent.

- Between the World Wars, it was easier (sort of) to be a bum in Paris than in England.

- Emperor Justinian I (or Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus, as his full name read), the last 'great' Roman emperor, had a wife named Theodora.  Before becoming the Empress, she was a popular prostitute whose most famous trick involved some oats and a goose.

- Tom Hanks is still an awful choice to portray Dan Brown's character, Robert Langdon.

- Marcus Aurelius was a very, very chill dude. His collection of private scribblings, known as the Meditations, are good light reading.

- The Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (now Istanbul) was completed in five years. That's roughly 1/7 the amount of time it took to build some of the cathedrals of Western Europe, such as St. Peter, even though they were comparable in size.

- Also between the World Wars, Parisian waiters and hotel workers were more interested in appearance than in cleanliness. 

- Apparently, the Albanian idea of a dystopia is a world in which a government agency reads your dreams, and base important decisions on the national dream-mood.  Actually, that method of decision making is probably more effective than the methods of some of our real politicians. (Yes, Barry, I'm looking at you and your posse). 

- Persians were totally cool with not sacking your city, if you gave them some cash. Occasionally, their army would just travel from city to city, look vaguely menacing, and demand some gold. 

Well, I know I enjoyed this little compilation. Hopefully, I've made you all want to go out and read these four excellent books in their entirety.

Justinian's Flea, by William Rosen
Palace of Dreams, by Ismail Kadare
Down and Out in Paris and London, by George Orwell
The Emperor's Handbook, by Marcus Aurelius

May 18, 2010

Finally, Inspiration

I've been having trouble expressing myself lately. There are too many unfinished posts that I can't bring myself to finish. I believe my inability to write is a product of a deeper instability. Allow me to share with you, my wonderful readership, the literary product of these past few months:

" [...] "

Yes, I know, its a regular novel. I shouldn't be so verbose. My apologies.  Thank you for reading.

April 29, 2010

On Welfare

Disclaimer: In the past few months, I have read three novels and several essays penned by Ayn Rand.  Her ideas of objectivism and the individualism that it results in have reignited in me a passion 

"An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced." - Fransisco D'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged, Part II Chapter II.

What is the worth of the welfare check In terms of benefit, it provides him with a level of income and protection against the consequences of personal financial failure.  However, it has robbed him of two things of immensely greater value: his self-worth and his motivation to create.

What kind of man does it take to say "No." to a government-'redistributed' payment? The answer is simple. It is the honest man, the capable man, and the man who knows the value of his own creative capacity.  He understands the source of that money and rejects its principle outright.
Thus, the welfare system consists of the opposite sort of man: the lying man, the incompetent man, the sort of man who has no conception of his creative capacity (or no desire to use it).

Welfare-statism is the hijacking of government by the leech and the looter.  This system views the wealth created by creative and productive men as a sort of 'natural resource' to be managed and redistributed.  The creator of this wealth has increasingly little say in the matter as the notion of public ownership of wealth becomes more and more prevalent.

Welfare money is, in essence, dirty money.  It is blood money stolen at the point of a legal gun by the 'government of the people'.

This post was intended to be longer and more comprehensive, but I seem to have run out of steam. I'll probably come back to it at some point. 

References (all by Ayn Rand):
Atlas Shrugged
The Fountainhead
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

Edit: I will DEFINITELY have to come back to this very soon. It needs a lot more explanation and depth before it actually represents my thoughts. Thanks to those who've pointed this out.

February 23, 2010

Music in the Meantime

Hello, blog. It has been quite a while since my last update, as I've had something of a drought of ideas that I considered worth writing ab - out.  I've wondered several times in the past several weeks whether my wellspring of ideas had run dry so soon.  I don't really think it has, but once you fall out of the habit of writing new material it is difficult to restart.

With that in mind, I've decided to just post something simple for the time being. Hopefully, this will motivate me to come up with some more serious ideas.  I've started listening to a ton of good bands since my last post, here's a list of some of that goodness.

Diablo Swing Orchestra (The Butcher's Ballroom, Sing Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious) - It's Swedish Avant-Garde Metal. I don't think I really NEED any other reason than that to listen to it.  From what I can tell, it bears great similarities with Nightwish, but is more listenable. Also, they sing primarily in English, albeit with some pretty bitchin' songs in Latin and Spanish.  Recommended songs: Balrog Boogie, Heroines, Wedding March for a Bullet, A Tap Dancer's Dilemma, and Stratosphere Serenade.

fun. (Aim and Ignite) - Headed by former The Format singer Nate Ruess, fun. lives up to its name.  The songs all have an upbeat, occasionally even sing-song feel to them.  I pick up on influences from the Beatles and Jack Johnson, although I've never looked to see who the band consider it's influences. There isn't a bad song on the album, definitely worth getting.

Manchester Orchestra (Mean Everything to Nothing) - Every song on this album is solid and enjoyable. What's regrettable is that the first half heavily outweighs the second in terms of catchiness and creativity. I never find myself skipping ahead to songs like Tony the Tiger or The River, even though these are good songs.  That being said, I haven't been able to tear myself away from this album for over a week.

Monty Are I (Wall of People) - Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't enjoy a band like Monty Are I.  During the choruses, the singing takes on the standard post-emo (post-hardcore?) style which many enjoy but that I can't stand.  However, several songs on this album have redeeming factors that make me completely forget that post-emo/hardcore singing bothers me. The big factor is their expert use of a brass section. Dublin Waltz and Tie Off Your Veins are the two songs that really show this off, and are my favorites.

Portugal. The Man (The Satanic Satanist)-The second entry with inexplicable punctuation in the name that throws of my spell-check.  Portugal. The Man shows that a laid-back, classic-rock era sound can still be appealing in an age when Auto-Tune is the preferred instrument and 'Shots' by LMFAO is iconic of the times.  Songs like Lovers in Love, The Sun, and Mornings stand out.

So, there's your good music fix for the week.

December 16, 2009

Book Review #3 - Mother's Milk

Mother's Milk by Andrew Thomas Breslin

(Link to Mother's Milk)
***** (5-star)

Mother's Milk was, simply put, a blast to read. It is the story of a young lawyer named Cindy Kichlklug (a last name contrived by the author, I am convinced, purely to confound his readers for his own entertainment) who agrees to represent a fringe advocacy group called the True Foods Project. At first, they seem to be a harmless bunch of lunatics with a grudge against the dairy industry, but she quickly learns that there is far more their story, much to her dismay.

This is a story that I was really able to appreciate right from the beginning. It was written by an author with a vivid imagination and a deep appreciation of language. The story moves at an appropriate pace, not going from the mundane to the absurd so fast that its entirely implausible. The reader is gently (or occasionally explosively) walked through the layers of the plot. Breslin is a man inspired, mixing bits of trivia with a sharpened, sarcastic wit and an ability to tell a completely bizarre and yet somehow totally believable story. As the story progresses, it takes on an almost dystopian feel right out of Orwell, Huxley, or Zamyatin.

All things considered, I highly recommend Mother’s Milk to anyone who appreciates a well-written story. Even if you do not normally like the science-fiction genre, give this book a chance. You won’t be disappointed.