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Recombinant Memetics

Meme complexes, "memeplexes", are groups of memes that are passed on together. Like genes, memes often coexist in groupings that further their collective survival and replication. The memeplexes with the fittest and most synergistic memes and are the ones that flourish in the memetic ecosystem, i.e. the collection of human minds.

One well adapted memeplex is the Mormon church I grew up in. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the fast growing religions in the world. What about the Mormon faith makes this possible?

For one, a collection of kick-ass memes. Mormons have lots of offspring, most of which adopt the LDS faith. Mormon doctrine and culture emphasizes marriage and encourages large families. Mormonism also encourages behavior that facilitates financial stability and accumulation of wealth. The church glorifies the small businessman and inculcates bourgeois values like saving money, getting and holding jobs, and low time preference. By avoiding the debt and divorce that attend financial hardship, Mormonism increases the fidelity with which the faith is transferred to offspring, makes Mormons respected and enviable members of the community--aiding conversion, and encourages satisfaction with the Mormon lifestyle status quo and the belief that the Mormons really are favored by god--thereby reducing apostasy and back-sliding.

In addition to powerful memes, the church also benefits from the multitude of ways that these memes work together to amplify their effects. The memes for financial success combine with the tithing meme to finance proselytism around the world as well as institutions like the Mormon welfare system that encourage organizational allegiance. The financial memes also help make possible Mormonism's most impressive meme: missionary work. Mormon families pay out of pocket for their young men to put their careers and educations on hold and devote two years of their lives to work more than full-time recruiting new members. These, and other elements of the Mormon memeplex, gives it a leg up against other religions--like the celibate, and unsurprisingly moribund, Shakers--in the competition for human mind space.

One comparatively poorly adapted memeplex is the libertarian movement. Much of this is our fault. We have bundled our ideological memes like "Don't initiate coercion." with incompatible and ineffective praxis memes like the Libertarian Party and electoral politics in general. In all fairness, libertarian memes also start out with several inherent disadvantages. The whole point of libertarianism is to combat a number of particularly virulent and pernicious memes. Richard Dawkins showed how genes, not organisms, are the basic unit of evolution and that the sole interest of genes, reproduction, does not always line up with the interest of their carriers, i.e. organisms, hence the title of his book “The Selfish Gene.” It's the same way with memes. The meme "The state is indispensable." is bad for the well being of individuals and societies, but it has achieved dominance because those with power and wealth accumulated through plunder have used these resources to disseminate it and have made holding it as a prerequisite for social advancement and some semblance of a normal life. By rejecting statist memes we renounce use of the reproductive power which made them such a common problem in the first place. The anti-politics political movement faces obvious challenges just as an anti-technology movement would have trouble getting its ideas heard. As a result, libertarian ideology, no matter how ironclad its arguments and beneficial its potential effects, languishes on the margins of the marketplace of ideas.

I think the solution to these problems for libertarians lies in superior memetic engineering.

Diabetics used to depend on insulin extracted from cattle and pig pancreases. In the late 70s, scientists figured out how to produce insulin by splicing animal insulin genes into bacteria that would then produce insulin as well as more insulin producing bacteria. Today most artificial insulin is produced with modified E. coli bacteria or yeast at lower cost and higher quality. This is called recombinant DNA.

E. coli genes co-evolved to create a highly efficient system for their rapid and accurate expression and reproduction. All scientists had to do was piggy-back another bit of evolved genetic machinery onto this complex and the resulting chimera would reproduce and express the desired genes for them.

If someone could put together a neutral carrier--a collection of memes that, like the E. coli genome, was an effective machine for reproducing itself--he could splice in whatever ideas he liked and set it loose. The recombinant memeplex would then, barring mutation, spread the message for him.

This already happens all the time. The basic self-reproducing ideas behind the chain letter or pyramid scheme have been used again and again in the service of many different ends. As our knowledge of how memes work improves, even more powerful and complex "recombinant memetics" should become possible. By swapping out different memes for L. Ron Hubbard's ravings, the Church of Scientology, stripped of its crazy-ass belief system leaving just the mechanisms used for churning out zealous Scientologists could be used for producing zealous vegans, zealous Pastafarians...or even zealous libertarians.


URGENT: CONTACT YOUR CONGRESSMAN REGARDING H. RES. 1255!

My congressional staffer friend Kerri's facebook status wonders why the hell the highest legislature in the land is considering a bill to honor Toby Keith.

HRES 1255 IH

110th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. RES. 1255

Honoring Toby Keith’s commitment to members of the Armed Forces.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

June 10, 2008

Mr. COLE of Oklahoma submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Armed Services

RESOLUTION

Honoring Toby Keith’s commitment to members of the Armed Forces.

Whereas thousands of celebrities have donated their time to entertain members of the Armed Forces both in the United States and abroad through the United Service Organizations (hereafter known as the ‘USO’);

Whereas since the USO’s founding in 1941, country music personalities have been an essential element of the USO’s entertainment;

Whereas Oklahoma native Toby Keith made six USO tours around the world, performing in such locations as Cuba, Germany, Belgium, Kosovo, Italy, and Africa; and entertaining more than 135,000 members of the Armed Forces in Middle East Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom;

Whereas Toby Keith has volunteered to perform at some of the most dangerous and remote locations in the Persian Gulf, which require Apache escorts and include Forward Operating Bases with total populations of not more than 50 members of the Armed Forces;

Whereas, on April 24, 2008, while performing in Kandahar, Afghanistan mortar fire disrupted his concert;

Whereas few, if any, performers have traveled to such remote and dangerous military bases with Toby Keith’s frequency;

Whereas Toby Keith has acted as a valuable liaison between forward deployed troops, the USO, and the American public;

Whereas Toby Keith makes it a priority to give tickets to members of the Armed Forces here in the United States;

Whereas Toby Keith allows members of the Armed Forces to eat and drink for free in his restaurants; and

Whereas Toby Keith co-wrote and performed the hit song ‘American Solider’ honoring the sacrifices that America’s soldiers make on a daily basis: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) honors Toby Keith’s commitment to our country’s Armed Forces overseas;

(2) encourages other entertainers to take into consideration Toby Keith’s deep commitment to boosting the morale of our Nation’s Armed Forces when supporting USO operations; and

(3) a copy of this Resolution, suitably engrossed, be transmitted to Toby Keith.

As laughable as all this is, it is definitely par for the course. Congress routinely passes all sorts of silly resolutions. "Congress has saluted such milestones as the Idaho Potato Commission's 70th anniversary and recognized soil as an 'essential natural resource.' ... Congress has designated May 5-9 as National Substitute Teacher Recognition Week, and set July 28 as the Day of the American Cowboy."

Notwithstanding my friend's consternation, and the fact that nowhere in the the Constitution does it explicitly authorize the federal government to bestow honors upon, or for that matter, "engross" government documents for, jingoistic country music stars, I agree with other libertarian commentators that this phenomenon is by and large a good thing. The Wall Street Journal article where the previous quote comes from laments that such bills consume congress' time "as legislation on gasoline prices, tax fixes and predatory lending languish." Honoring the role puppets have played in our nation's history or recognizing Grapefruit Awareness Month seems like a small price to pay to keep that other sort of legislation languishing as long as possible.


An Extremely Depressing Onion Article

6-Year-Old Stares Down Bottomless Abyss Of Formal Schooling

Local first-grader Connor Bolduc, 6, experienced the first inkling of a coming lifetime of existential dread Monday upon recognizing his cruel destiny to participate in compulsory education for the better part of the next two decades, sources reported.
...
Shortly after his mommy, homemaker Ellen Bolduc, 31, assured him that he would be able to resume playtime "when school lets out," Connor's innocent brain only then began to work out the implication of that sentence to its inevitable, soul-crushing conclusion.

Although I'm always surprised by the number of otherwise "plumb-line" libertarians that support public schools, libertarians are well aware of the evils of compulsory education. On the other hand, libertarians are often hypocritical of the problems with schools as we know them and the concept of schooling itself. Schooling provides a good example of the importance of "thick libertarianism", the claim that libertarianism must incorporate contextual social and cultural values in its analysis.
We should not assume that education in a free market would look like our present private and public schools minus the hobbling regulatory restrictions.
Rad Geek explains how statism has a deeply pernicious effect on the internal culture and institutional structure of schools:

One of the worst things about so-called "public education," i.e. government-controlled schooling, is that students are forced into an institution that they consistently find unpleasant and boring, whether or not the individual student thinks that it's worth the trouble. That fact, combined with the fact that the victims are all young and many of them are poor or black or otherwise marked as "at-risk youth" in need of special surveillance and control, naturally and systematically corrupts the way that the school relates to its students. It leads administrators and political decision-makers to focus on restraining the unruly behavior of the coerced students, by making authority, control, "security," and "discipline" top priorities. In practice this means monitoring, intimidation, and coercion. These facts in turn result in attitudes and institutional practices throughout State schools that are often hard to distinguish from those prevailing in a prison camp.

The causal relationship also goes the other way. The hierarchical, authoritarian, and ultimately unproductive, structure of schools and the education they provide shapes political outcomes. Mencken writes,

The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all, it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.

A primary outcome of education as it is presently constituted is to turn naturally independent, self-sufficent, entrepreneurial, human beings into efficent wage slaves for the state monopoly capitalist system and obedient subjects for the total state. While private schools are usually less culpable than public schools in this regard, they still operate within the same environment and are conditioned to the demands and expectations of this system by the demands of employers, parents, and legislators.
In the absence of statism, we can only assume that schools would look completely different. In fact, I suspect that that schools would be unable to compete efficently with alternative forms of education in a liberated society. David Friedman appears to be at least one person who has been succesful "unschooling" some of his children. I highly recommend his posts on the subject:
The Case for Unschooling
Home Unschooling: Theory
Home Unschooling: Practice


Market Anarchy Graffiti

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
This was my project for the week. The hardest parts were macgyvering a flashlight projecter to blow up the stencils and getting the ladders to not tip over on the uneven river bottom. I only had to do commit a little trespassing to get it done!

It replaces my old sign:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

I know Micha will think it's an improvement.


1 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars

1 in 100 U.S. Adults Behind Bars

Good god. This is insane.  How long can a political and economic order persist while 7% of state budgets are going to forcing a significant portion of the population to rot behind bars? The internal contradictions of state capitalism are destroying the system from within.


A sketch of SEK3: Founder of Agorism

There's been some great discussion on the blog lately about Agorism. I thought I'd share this exerpt about Samuel Edward Konkin III, founder of Agorism, from the book Anarchism: Left, Right, and Green by Ulrike Heider. Her sardonic tone (she is arguing that market anarchy represents a dangerous departure from her true eco-anarchist values) and infamiliarity, as a German social radical, with American libertarianism, combines with the apparent eccentricity of SEK3 and his lifestyle, to make this an entertaining read.

The main figure of the MLL (Movement of the Libertarian Left) is Samuel Edward Konkin III. A "leftist" anarcho-capitalist who lives in Long Beach, California, a city where miles of white sand beaches provide the backdrop for an eerie skyline of innumerable oil rigs and towers--which perhaps explains in part why Konkin III, who is an avid sicence-fiction fan, chose this city as the site for his so-called anarcho-village and his Agorist Institute (from the Greek agora marketplace). I had pictured the anarcho-village as a kind of free-trader colony of young aspiring businessmen. I found Konkin's street in a neigborhood of shabby, flat-roofed houses and rang the bell; the door was opened by a young Latino who showed me into a tiny apartment consiting of a single room. I thought I must be in wrong place-aren't libertarians supposed to be comfortable, if not affluent? A quick phone call revealed that Konkin III lived in a similar hosue next door which was part of the anarcho-village comprising five aprtments in the neigborhood. Konkin III's appearnce was as unconvetional as his dwelling was makeshift. He is a Canadian in his early forties, of stately stature, hair combed back close to his head. Dressed entirely in black, wiht a turtleneck sweater, a metal belt, cowboy boots, and a silver medallion around his neck, he looks like a cross between a leather guy, a catholic priest , and a romantic fascist. He announced proudly that he was preparing "real German coffee" and introduced me to two other inhabitants of the anarcho-village, who tried to speak German with me. A poster of Trotsky adorned a wall. Konkin III explained to me that Murray Rothabard, who likes to think of himself as the Lenin of the libertarians, once comapred him to Trotsky. Despite what I expected from their individualism, as typified, for instance by Ayn Rand's characters, the inhabitants of the anarcho-village apppeared to be as poor as church mice, and as sociable as bohemian collectivists.

Konkin III belives that the black market is the key to abolition of the state and the creation of a pure laissez-faire society. He considers himself a "theoretician and practician of countereconomics" and cultivates the image of a rebel. Any illegal act is sacred to him, evein if it is merely jaywalking. "We break the lawn," he then declared passionately. The Agorist Institute, the headquarters of the MLL, is located in an office buliding in downtown Long Beach, a city whose numerous palm trees lend it a tropical flair. The office consists of two cramped rooms equippped with two computers. Science-fiction posters cover the walls. The institute, I learned, is "technically legal," a non-profit, tax-deductible project "supproted by libertarian business people who feel guilty for being too honest and legal." But the movement publication, the New Libertarian Magazine, is "completely countereconomic," he says. It unequivocally breaks the law, simply by printing the stock market index without being registered wit the state. At the end of the interview, Konkin III presented me with the organization's official brassard: a white cicle on a red background, with a black flag above the letters MLL, encircled by the words "agora," "anarchy," and "action". To me, both the color combination and the design were somewhat reminiscent of fascist emblems, and the movement's acronym could have had a Stalinist model. Konkin III, who hinted that his political beginnings had been in the "far right," studied during the late 1960s in Wisconsin, a state with a strong German heritage. Converted to laissez-faire anarchism by Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and by the expulsion of the YAF's libertarian fraction [sic], he and three yippies founded a libertarian group at the university. He told the yippies thaty they could throw as many rocks as they wanted, as long as they threw them only at government buildings, not at privatete corporations or businesses.


More Iconoclasm Please!

Given the short span of the history of human civilization, I think it's fair to say that anti-idolatry is one of the most vital and progressive intellectual movements around.

I'm reading a book about the history of Zoroastrianism, which, while it doesn't hold a lot of sway today, really had a huge impact on all the Abrahamic faiths as well as every other religious goings-on in that region for centuries, including Mahayana Buddhism. A recurring theme in the narrative is the problem of idol worship. The ancient faith founded by Zoroaster/Zarathustra was one based around a radical transformation of the taxonomic distinction between the the natural phenomena daeva and social and moral ahura groups of gods of primitive Indo-Iranian mythology into a much more abstract and recognizably modern cosmological struggle between the principals of asha and druj--truth and lies, good and evil—rejecting worship of the daevas and minimizing the importance of all of the later except for Ahura Mazda, the uncreated source of all good in universal struggle with Angra Mainyu, the ignorant and malignant god of evil. While Zoroaster's huge advancement in moral philosophy and metaphysics achieved great popularity and were accepted by many for centuries, the integrity of the beliefs were never completely safe from threat. A major role of conservative and orthodox believers throughout the tradition seems to be resisting the seemingly inevitable human propensity to introduce icons into worship as symbols of the gods, principals, rituals, etc. and thence to inevitably shift worship from the object of these symbols to the symbols themselves. The same process and response is readily apparent in the story of the golden calf and the “graven images” commandment in the Old Testament and Koranic prohibition of shirk, the sin of polytheism, and the prohibition in the Hadith against depicting living creatures.

Moses' response to the calf worship (destroying the commandments he had just received, burning the idol, grinding it up, and force-feeding it to the Israelites, and of course killing 3,000 men) seems weird to us; the Taliban's destruction of the giant Buddha statues at Bamyan strikes us as downright devilish, and we shake our heads or laugh when we hear about things like the recent kerfuffle in Sudan over the English teacher who named a stuff bear Muhammed, but it's important to remember the source of these reactions: the relatively recent response from the intelligent and spiritual turned-on elements of humanity to resist the asinine human tendency to reify, hypostasize, and anthromorphize every abstract concept and process we can get our hands on.

While the yokels in Sudan are a little behind the times, the laudable efforts of the likes of Moses and Muhammad to smash Yellow Pages full of magical circus animal-style polytheism and the worship of handicrafts put them on the same team, in the grand scheme of things, as Darwin rejecting the willed creation of species by a man-like creator, Marx struggle to expose the reification of human relations, and Hayek working to replace the pervasive myths of conscious, planned order, behind law, economics, and other social phenomena, with an understanding of spontaneous emergent cosmos.

The advance of knowledge is marked by this process. A Druid would tell you that trees turn colors in the fall because the spirits in the trees decide they should. A modern biologist can tell you about the chemical sources and evolutionary reasons for this event. Instead of the Helios pulling the sun across the sky, it's now gravity and we realize that the motion is an illusion caused by our point of view. While our understanding is improving, but we're not out of the woods yet. Think about how many people you know who, for instance, confuse flag worship for patriotism or voting with freedom. Belief in false idols is still alive and well in the 21st century.

And don't think that empirical scientific types get off entirely scot-free. There's a tendency to go to far the other way, considering only the external, deterministic characteristics of phenomena and ignoring their internal existence and the aspects of reality that are beyond our standard framework of scientific perception. In our fashionably myopic “flatland” approach to knowledge, we think we have driven the conscious and subjective other back to it's last redoubt, the human mind, and seem on the verge of complete triumph over the uncertain and mysterious, only to find to our puzzlement that things like CAT scans and fMRIs are entirely inadequate to lay bare the complete nature of our thoughts and feelings. For this reason, I would include people like Alfred North Whitehead with his panpsychicprocess philosophy”, Henri Bergson and his “elan vital”, Tim Leary and his “reality tunnels”, and Korzybski and his “map/territory” distinction among the worthies mentioned above and would expect to see more of this sort of thinking in the future.

Human beings are depressingly literal-minded, tunnel-visioned, creatures. We think almost entirely in metaphors and concrete nouns—we can't help it—we have limited brain power and information and have to think in abstractions. The best we can do is recognize this tendency and do our best to keep in mind that everything has a context and a genealogy that shape what it is and does and that it is subject to processes that are transforming it into what it will become. We must also keep in mind that our own interpretations of phenomena are informed by our uniquely composed perspective which itself is the creation of time, place, context. We have to walk the thin line between a taoist primitivistic and quietistic rejection of all abstraction and the much more dangerous tendency to apophenically search for imaginary keys, techniques, or perspectives, of universal insight that promise to cut through the web of complexity--what Taleb calls “Platonicity” and Hayek called the “synoptic delusion”--as well as the chauvinistic scientist's tendency to reduce everything to threadbare, mechanistic, atomism and external features.

Dear distributed republicans and catallarchs who actually know something about philosophy, please correct me where I've got things wrong. If you'll excuse me for a bit, I have to go render obeisance to the Ludwig Lachmann statue in my basement. He gets mad if my peanut butter and jelly sacrifice and buga buga dance to subjectivist economics are late.


Anarcho-Christmas Carol

A great, if late, Christmas carol from the immortal SEK3.

Hat tip to Wally Conger.

Joy to the World
(Tune of “Joy to the World”)

Joy to the world,
The State is dead,
Let earth receive no king.
Let every heart, be unrestrained,
At last we’ve broken free!
At last we’ve broken free!
At last, at last, we’ve broken free!

Joy to the earth,
No monarch reigns,
No politician’s left,
We come to burn…the ballot box,
Far as the vote is found,
Far as the vote is found,
Far as, far as, the vote is found.

No rule on earth!
Now truth and grace
Are everyone’s birthright.
The market is free, and anarchy
Is found throughout the land,
Is found throughout the land,
Is found, is found, throughout the land.

No more let tax
Or tariffs vex
The workers or the boss.
Inflation is gone,
Our money is sound,
And freedom is our right,
And freedom is our right,
And freedom, and freedom, is our right!


Guy Fawkes RP Drive - 3 Million and Counting

So far Ron Paul has raised over 3 MILLION dollars today and the day is not over yet. Record breaking internet donations...

I don't mean to "shill for Ron Paul"(as Redstate says) but there's still time to donate before November 5th is over. Ronpaul2008.com

Dirty politics aside, I find it fascinating that the official Ron Paul campaign had very little to do with this November 5th fundraising drive. Some other people started the thisnovember5th site that got the ball rolling and the campaign figured they'd get a little money today but they expected nothing like this.

See stats at ronpaulgraphs.com


Power, Liberty, and the Age of Consent

Proposals for the creation of new laws should be approached with skepticism. Laws set the boundaries for the legitimate use of violence. Within the realm of all lawful actions, society depends on the forces of social pressure, refusal of association, and economic and social competition, to prod,persuade, and cajole individuals into desirable forms of behavior. While these methods of social control do not elicit the sort of visceral power and authority of physical force, they constitute a more humane, dynamic, and adaptive solution to human problems and promote an environment of harmony and social amelioration.

This is not to say that all interactions within the realm of civil society take place between equals and are beneficial to everyone involved. Even without resorting to coercive force, people exploit and mistreat each other all the time. Whole institutions, norms, and other social structures within the civil sphere are devoted to the perpetuation and efficient administration of power over certain groups by others. It is certainly possible to imagine and observe instances of things like racism, sexism, workplace intimidation, sexual harassment, and charismatic cults, where people exert destructive power over each other without invoking or threatening violence.

The question of consensual sex between young people and adults is a sterling example of a form of social interaction where coercion is absent but concerns about other forms of “force” and social power are prominent. Even many individuals who generally follow a philosophy of “live and let live” and advocate tolerance for “anything peaceful” feel uneasy about something that combines the many important issues wrapped up in sex, like emotional and physical vulnerability, love, attachment, serious life-changing consequences like pregnancy and disease, with the problems of dependency, respect, and inequality of money, knowledge, authority, physical strength, found in adult-child relations. It is in cases such as this that defenders individual liberty and consensual relationships can assess the practical limits of their arguments and the power of their solutions to solve difficult social problems.

Should sex between adults and minors be legal? It is important to remember that the imposition of external rules and the enforcement of laws involve hierarchical authority and relationships of power. It is strange to suggest that the solution for legitimate concerns about power between individuals should be remedied through threats of prosecution and imprisonment. To solve problems of unilateral ability of certain individuals to effect the lives of others by granting unilateral power to the government to regulate these relationships and punish individuals involved only shifts the problem of power and changes it from an issue of “soft coercion” between individuals into a problem of physical force between the state and society as a whole. Just as a builder can not cannibalize bricks from the lower floors of a building to add higher floors, the limitation or elimination of aggressive physical force from social relations seems prerequisite for addressing other forms of illegitimate power in society.

The world is an incredibly varied place. The diversity of human personalities, relationships, lifestyles, values, and physical circumstances means that all legal restrictions are procrustean beds that demands one solution for all instances of a certain problem while ignoring extenuating circumstances, unusual conditions, and subsidiary considerations. Context matters and the tools of social shame or approval, reputation, and persuasion administered by individuals familiar with the conditions and people involved tend to be a much more flexible and just remedies for conflicts and problems than the clumsy and heavy handed law.

The flexibility of the libertarian solution also lends itself to harnessing the dispersed pieces of knowledge scattered through society and dealing with the limitations of human reason. Allowing people with different beliefs to experiment with different ways of living allows us to compare results and determine what works and what does not in the real world. Certainly many people will make mistakes but most of the damage caused by their mistakes will be limited to the small group of people decided to try the experiment. While the effects of failures are limited, everyone benefits from successful experiments by imitating them. Imposing one law for everyone stops experimentation and seriously retards the evolutionary mechanism that generates progress.

Some will say that sex between adults and children is obviously wrong and a bad idea and that social experimentation in this situation is unnecessary. Such arguments evince an ignorance of history and the diversity of human social institutions. Many cultures throughout history and in the world today tolerate or even encourage sex between people of disparate age with better and worse results. Even within our own tradition, our current laws and norms concerning the appropriate age for sex are relatively recent historical creations. The common law, from which America derives much of its legal principals, set the age of consent at 10. The state of California, in no way unusual in this respect, did not change its age of consent from 10 to 14 until 1897. Even if the present day status quo in this respect represents an immense improvement over the past, dismissing alternatives out of hand is very presumptuous.

Even if one decides that the nature of adult-child relationships in the present day necessitates legal sanctions against sex between minors and adults, this still does not mean that such laws will always be necessary or desirable. In a truly liberated society the considerations of power involved would be much less significant. The asymmetrical access to economic, social, informational, and physical means that creates much of the disparate power between adults and children grow largely out of legal restrictions on the freedom ofchildren. Limitations on the ability of young people to create contracts, work jobs, drive cars, stay out after dark, buy certain goods like spray paint and cough medicine, etc. all serve to turn children into second class citizens dependent on older people to get by. In our current society, children are kept in a state of bondage vis-à-vis their parents, schools, and social services. Children that run away from abusive and intolerable conditions at home are returned to their parents by the authorities or are forced into group homes, foster families, and other non-consensual living circumstances. Eliminating these sorts of restrictions would go a long way to fixing the problem of asymmetric bargaining power and agency between children and adults.


Jury Nullification

Representative democracy is a poor substitute for real control over our government. In the battle between power and the people, concentrated interests – politicians and special interests, are at a distinct advantage over the diffuse and disorganized interest of the common citizens. The few protections we have on runaway abuse of political power: checks and balances, courts, constitutions, and elections, serve the majority of the time only as legitimizing spectacles and diversions that consume our activist energies and blunt our horror and fury at the idiocy, rapacity, and bloodthirstiness, of our public officials.

Can any elected representative simultaneously maintain his principles and his political efficacy in the fetid swamps of our national and state capitals? Can a good and honest person even get elected under our current system? Even in the most directly democratic institution in our system, the public referendum, the politicians pick the proposals we vote on and enforce or ignore them largely as they please. States’ rights and federalism? Fine said the Republicans, until the people of California voted to allow the production and distribution of marijuana to sick individuals, then the federal government’s domestic military came down on the peaceful growers and marijuana clubs and rode roughshod over the will of the state electorate.

One institution remains where citizens retain the power as individuals to interpret constitutional law, veto the laws of their legislatures, and reject the actions of their legal system: jury nullification. Jury nullification is the act of a jury judging the law itself, of which a defendant is accused of violating, and rendering a not-guilty verdict based upon its judgment of the law as invalid or unjust. It is a legal right firmly based in common law principals and legal precendent: courts are prohibited from punishing juries for their verdicts and prohibited from retrying acquitted criminal defendants. As a result no juror’s oath is enforceable and a jury’s decision to acquit can not be reversed no matter what judges or prosecutors think the law demands. Our English and American ancestors fought and suffered for these important rights and we should not surrender them. As Thomas Jefferson said, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

If this power is so important and powerful why have most people never heard of it? For obvious reasons our political masters have had reason to fear this legal principal and have continually taken steps to obscure its existence and limit its use. The right of jury nullification is not normally disclosed to jurors in their instructions from the court. Potential jurors who seem too knowledgeable of their rights are unlikely to make it past the jury selection process. Hold-out jurors are often pressured by judges and their fellow jurors "...to avoid the expense of a hung jury and mistrial."

But the purpose of a trial is not to carry out the will of prosecutors and judges as quickly and efficiently as possible. If it were, jury trial would be a stupid way to go about it. Its purpose is to judge the guilt of the accused by the standards of his peers. Even hung juries send powerful messages to legislatures about problems with the law. All law and government depend, at least, on the passive acquiescence of the ruled. Jury nullification is our most practical legal defense against the runaway power of the police state.

The Fully Informed Jury Association 


The Mystical Binary

Old Wired article: God Is the Machine

About the hypothesis that the entire universe is a computer. Squares well with a lot of mystic traditions as well as some modern physics (as if I know - I wish I weren't such a science ignoramus.)


Conservative Anarchism - Obvious Contradiction or Obviously Awesome

Few ideas are as mistaken as that belief that conservatism and anarchism are completely incompatible. In fact, both ideas, correctly understood, form a powerful, mutually supportive ideological whole.

Conservatives see tradition as the embodied wisdom of the past. Tradition conveys the practices, beliefs, and rules that worked for those that came before us. Tradition reflects an evolutionary process – those practices that promote success and wellbeing are perpetuated and imitated (even if people do not know why, how, or even that they work) while those that are injurious to their practitioners are selected against and die out. If we recognize the limits of our individual rationality, we will think long and hard before we choose to radically contradict the teachings of those that came before us.

But it is a betrayal of this valuable mechanism to insist in an unthinking conformity to received practices maintained through force. As Burke wrote, “A state without the means of change is without the means of its conservation.” Change, whether to continue improvement or to adapt to changing social environments, must be organic. As in evolution, periodic experimentation, much of which will be pernicious to the social organism, must be tried on a limited scale where the extent of harmful effects will be limited but from which productive discoveries can be imitated and adopted by the rest of the society. Governments, behemoth organizations, and authoritarian systems, insist on universal compliance and top down planning, thereby obstructing Proudhon’s “spontaneous order” from arising. Real traditionalists will be suspicious of any enterprise or organization that promises to heal the sick, care for the elderly, restore public morality, or make the world safe for democracy, instantly and everywhere through force and fiat. Carried to its conclusions, this rejection of compulsion and meddlesome self-appointed authorities amounts to the anarchism of the ruggedly independent pioneers and scofflaw revolutionaries that founded this country.

Many American conservatives honor free enterprise and unencumbered commerce. They recognize the value of individual initiative and competition in the provision of goods and services. At least in word if not deed, conservatives advocate lower taxes, fewer regulations, and less government spending. “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Why not eliminate it? While most anarchists are opposed to “capitalism”, they certainly could not object if the people where you live wanted to set up businesses and exchange. What is more, nothing about conservatism insists that all cooperation must take place on the market - “faith based initiatives” and what not. Anarchy is the real free market.

Many conservatives are Christians or at least appreciate the values of Christian morality. Does anarchism square with Christianity?

The Old Testament contains one of the earliest defenses of a stateless order. The people of Israel come to the prophet Samuel and begged for him to establish a King over them. Up to that point “there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Samuel warned his people of what having a King would entail: He would conscript their sons into his service raising his crops, making his weapons, and fighting his battles. He will make their daughters cook for him and bake for him. He will take their servants and young men to serve him. He will seize their fields, and vineyards, and oliveyards, and give them to his servants. He will tax away a full tenth (horrors!) of their seed, land, sheep. “And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you and the LORD will not hear you in that day.”

Jesus advocated nonviolence, even pacifism. “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” How can one carry out the functions of a government without force? Even the state’s defenders will admit that the state is institutionalized and legitimized use of violence. The church that Jesus started was highly decentralized and egalitarian. It was a faith for the downtrodden and oppressed common people. Only after the conversion of Emperor Constantine did the church come to be identified with the will of the ruling elite and, in some cases, a religious justification for the exercise of power. Followers of Jesus would be well served to remember his injunction to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” by throwing Caesar out on his head.

Although the Catholic Church has been historically hostile to anarchism, Catholic intellectuals seeking to develop an economic system consistent with Catholic social teaching they arrived at a suspiciously anarchistic political model called distributism. Thinkers like G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc sought to avoid the concentration of power in the hand of a few bureaucrats (socialism) or in the hands of a few capitalists (capitalism) by distributing the means of production as widely as possible throughout society. Under this system production would be dominated by guilds, cooperatives, small family businesses, and independent artisans. The distributist emphasize the concept of subsidiarity, the principal that no larger unit of social organization should perform a function which can be performed by a smaller unit.

Government and hierarchy are greatest enemies of culture, virtue, and tradition. Stop them now before it is too late.