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Web of Trust

Web of Trust gives this blog site a very poor rating. Probably some people who disagree with the politics gave it poor scores, and since there aren't many votes those poor scores can pull it down a lot.

Perhaps some of the people here should vote it up. Also I guess WoT isn't particularly reliable on some less trafficked sites.


Biased Towards Bigger Government

Previously, I made a pitch for an improved form of representative democracy: score voting. With Score Voting we could ditch the two-party duopoly and explore incremental versions of many different ideologies: libertarianism, market environmentalism, Christian liberalism, Georgism, Objectivism, Darwinism, or whatever. While radicals of any school would still have difficulty getting elected, different districts could tentatively explore a few of many possible directions. Our state and local governments would become true laboratories of democracy. Meanwhile, our national legislatures would be filled with a variety of near-moderates; diverse enough to represent the nation while moderate enough to work together. Power would likely flow back from the executive to the legislative branch. We would be a working republic once again, instead of elected near dictatorship (in the classical sense).

Some of you received the idea warmly. Others were troubled. A more democratic system means rule by the median voter, and many of you distrust the median. With the median voter in charge, would we get even more largesse for the middle class? A more progressive income tax? Protectionism? Persecution of minorities?

Legitimate concerns all, but I think a bit misplaced. The median voter is no libertarian, for sure, but government has grown beyond the median voter's desires. We are biased towards bigger government, in several ways.

Civil servants and other recipients of government largesse vote for more. As the number of government employees, contractors and subsidy moochers grows, so grows the demand for bigger government. Moreover, these are the people who show up to vote even when the general public is disengaged. Reengage the general public; make elections interesting contests instead of coronations for incumbents; and the special interests lose some clout. Score Voting has the potential to reduce this bias somewhat, but by no means completely.

The bigger bias, however, is ideological. Our two-party duopoly virtually guarantees that government will ratchet ever upwards. Have a look at this political map. We have a bigger government party of the Left and a party of the Right which includes both big and small government coalition members. The aforementioned map is not the Nolan Chart, BTW, but a map using Left and Right in a more traditional sense: Left means a call for a more egalitarian society and looking out for the poor; Right means defense of the existing order, including wealth distribution. The Democratic Party is dominated by moderate socialists and welfarists. The Republican Party represents defense against the Democrats. The Republican Party thus contains a fair number of free market capitalists, but it is also the home of mercantilists, militarists, authoritarian traditionalists, crony capitalists, and others who wish to preserve economic elite.

The existing alignment makes government ratchet upwards. The Republicans increase the demand for socialism by widening the wealth gap, and the Democrats provide it. The United States lacks a party of the Upper Left, a party which calls for smaller government and a narrower wealth gap. So government grows bigger and the wealth gap widens. Since our society moves Down and to the Right due to systemic bias, it is reasonable to hypothesize that the median voter is somewhere in the Upper-Left quadrant. A new political party which occupies this quadrant might well become a dominant party.

But starting a new party under current conditions is a problematic indeed, and I doubt this audience is much interested in taking on such a risky and expensive venture. Our other option is to open the market to new parties -- or new non-party political factions. That is, with Score Voting in place we can expect one or several new parties of the Upper Left to enter the political market. With the Lower-Right ideological bias gone, we have hope of shrinking government back to the size desired by the median voter. And with government thus shrunk, the civil service/special interest bias shrinks as well. Positive feedback might work in our favor for a change.


No Leader? No Problem

Ann Althouse has here one of the odder criticisms of President Obama I've heard, in response to yesterday's attempted plane bombing:

"President Barack Obama’s Christmas Day began with a briefing about a botched attack on an airliner in Detroit and ended with a visit to a dining hall for members of the military. His holiday vacation was designed to be an island respite from the pressures of the White House."

Well, tough. Whoever puts himself forward to become President is asking to be on call constantly for the next 4 years — every day of the year, around the clock.

"Obama and first lady Michelle Obama made a quick trip to Marine Corps Base Hawaii after a private day exchanging gifts and eating a holiday meal of roast beef at their rented home in Kailua — between briefings on the disrupted plot of suspected terrorism."

Why, exactly, are they in Hawaii — over 5,000 miles* from the White House? I'm not criticizing Obama in particular for going on vacations. I mean to criticize all the Presidents who go far away from Washington.

But what, precisely, do we expect presidents to do? She admits that there was essentially nothing Obama could do about this but that it is a "a reminder of what can happen".

OK, then, think back to 9/11, which is what "can" happen. What, in a precise way, did Bush do that day? What could he have done? I don't mean that as a criticism of him in any way. When you have a functioning organization, the fact that the top leader is momentarily out of the loop is of little consequence. I admit my memory is a little fuzzy, but I remember great acts of heroism, but little in the way of federal government action. And that is OK.

Presidents matter. They help set policy at a broad, macro level. But what they do not do, and cannot do, is run the government as a micro level. Even in a "crisis" situation, ordinary people, government functionaries, police, doctors, etc. will do their jobs, and it doesn't make a damn bit of difference if Obama, McCain, Clinton, or Kucinich is "in charge".

Obama was in Hawaii? Irrelevant. There were people on the plane who subdued the attempted bomber. Ordinary citizens, being heroes, with no government orders from On High.

The greatest President in American history was inaugurated on August 2, 1923. He was woken up after the death of his predecessor, strolled downstairs, took the oath of office, and went back to bed. Would that we understood today how to behave as the chief bureaucrat of the central public goods administration.


Sheriff Arpaio… of Nottingham?

As recently brought to my attention by Randall McElroy III, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County has gone off the deep end. The link in his post doesn’t adequately inform the individual who may have just recently stumbled upon this horrid mess in Maricopa County.

Let me say that the first time I had ever learned anything of substance about Arpaio was in the documentary American Drug War. He seemed like a relatively harmless little statist with no ambitions beyond tormenting those unfortunate enough to be arrested in his County, turns out I was dead wrong.

Excerpts from The Thin Blue Whine: The Crybaby Thugs of Maricopa County by William Norman Grigg.

Male prisoners are required to wear pink underwear; until a lawsuit ended the practice, female detainees were under constant video surveillance, including hidden cameras in the toilet facilities. Inmates are fed green bologna and forced to work in chain gangs. Many are housed in surplus military tents that offer little effective shelter from the elements.

That really doesn’t bother me too much, what else would you expect from a county dungeon?

After several people charged with non-violent offenses died of culpable abuse or neglect while in Arpaio’s custody, the county was forced to pay millions of dollars in legal settlements.

Ok, now that is real problem. Now it is sounding like a Pre-Magna Carta dungeon.

[...]Arpaio — with the aid of the similarly megalomaniacal Maricopa County prosecutor, Andrew Thomas — attempted to prosecute and imprison the people who had brought those irregularities to light: The reporters and editorial staff of the independent Phoenix New Times newspaper.

In August 2007, the Maricopa County Prosecutor’s Office hit the Phoenix New Times with a grand jury subpoena demanding detailed information, including “Every note, tape, and record from every story written about Sheriff Arpaio by every reporter over a period of years” as well as “detailed information on anyone who has looked at the New Times Web site since 2004″ as well as every individual “individual who looked at any story, review, listing, classified, or retail ad [in the publication] over a period of years.”

If that doesn’t really get your goat, just read the whole article and see if you can justify (to yourself) the actions of this statist fool, who makes the Sheriff of Nottingham seem like a reasonable fellow.

Sheriff Arpaio is mad as a March Hare and is absolutely drunk on power.

originally posted to http://fedland.tk


Malice or Stupidity?

In a conversation with my wife this weekend, I was complaining about some new acts of regulation that emerged from the sausage factory of government. I framed these as the unintended consequences of stupid politicians, and in this case, she took the opposing side of that age-old debate and suggested that they were the intentional consequences of malicious politicians.

I was suddenly reminded of a passage from Murray Rothbard's "Conceived in Liberty" (Volume 3, p. 272):

Suddenly America erupted again, and now the British saw that the colonial problems had never been really quieted. They also began to see something more: that generally only the "extreme" poles are logical or viable, and that in-between states are logically self-contradictory and unstable mixtures that impel persistently toward one pole or the other. And so the British began to realize that continued drift and repeated near conflicts with Americans were unworkable, and that Great Britain must finally choose—either to pursue appeasement and go back to the salutary neglect and colonial quasi-independence of the pre—Seven Years' War era, or to take the hard line and crush the colonists and impose absolute British rule. The choice was appeasement and peaceful co-existence on the one hand, or maximum force for total victory on the other. In keeping with its nature, of course, the Tory imperialist ruling clique opted unhesitatingly for coercion and the mailed fist.

It made me consider the following idea. There are two stable social systems--central authoritarian control, and distributed individual action. A mix of the two is inherently unstable. When a solution is sought for a problem, the system incrementally moves in one of the two directions--either towards central control or distributed individualism. Someone who believes in authoritarian control, when faced with an unstable situation, will suggest to impose greater control, and incrementally move a step closer toward totalitarian government. Someone who believes in distributed action will act individually, and reinforce the distributed system. As the system reaches one of the two equilibria points, it is more difficult to move toward the opposing point.

Social systems are difficult to isolate. Previously, there may have been many independent societies separated geographically, but they are becoming ever more interlinked. As they come into contact with one another, either similar systems coalesce, or opposing systems display turbulence until they resolve.

Personally, I think the jury is in. The Internet shifted power toward individual control. The central planners are trying to shore up their system, and reaching totalitarian conclusions that may sound workable within the DC Beltway, but would take a near infinite amount of resources to implement. As Kevin Carson suggests in this C4SS paper (albeit discussing a more specific social structure--the Alternative Economy), we have passed a singularity.


People to Live Longer, Healthier Lives: Society Hardest Hit

Via Arnold Kling comes this hilariously negative warning about the perils of people living longer:

Life expectancy for Americans by 2050 will surpass government projections by as much as eight additional years for women and five for men, with disastrous implications for a country unprepared for an explosion of elderly, a new study released today says.

Forty years from now, women will live 89.2 to 93.3 years; and men, 83.2 to 85.9 years — driven by ongoing advances in both treatment of major fatal diseases and slowing of the aging process — according to the report in a journal of health and health policy, The Milbank Quarterly.

U.S. government projections for life expectancy by 2050 now stand at 83.4 to 85.3 years for women; 80 to 80.9 years for men.

It's bad enough that the article doesn't even mention the positives. More time with the grandkids, more time to travel? Bah, the budgets must be balanced!

Even if one is inclined to look solely at the budget, this isn't all that hard a problem to solve. There's fairly strong evidence that we could cut Medicare in half and suffer no adverse health consequences. Social Security isn't actually all that damaging to the budget, and relatively minor increases in the retirement age would handle the longevity "problem".

Whether or not we choose to do so as a society is another matter. I tend towards optimism in this matter, based on Herb Stein's old maxim that what cannot go on forever will not. We won't spend 150% of GDP on health, because we can't. Libertarians seem to run towards a pessimistic outlook on an imminent implosion of society from excess government (at least the ones on the internet do), but that has hardly been the record of the last 200 years.

But as Bob Fogel recently noted, why should we be concerned that we're spending more money on health care? What else are we going to spend it on anyway?

The main factor is that the long-term income elasticity of the demand for healthcare is 1.6—for every 1 percent increase in a family’s income, the family wants to increase its expenditures on healthcare by 1.6 percent. This is not a new trend. Between 1875 and 1995, the share of family income spent on food, clothing, and shelter declined from 87 percent to just 30 percent, despite the fact that we eat more food, own more clothes, and have better and larger homes today than we had in 1875. All of this has been made possible by the growth in the productivity of traditional commodities. In the last quarter of the 19th century, it took 1,700 hours of labor to purchase the annual food supply for a family. Today it requires just 260 hours, and it is likely that by 2040, a family’s food supply will be purchased with about 160 hours of labor.12

Consequently, there is no need to suppress the demand for healthcare. Expenditures on healthcare are driven by demand, which is spurred by income and by advances in biotechnology that make health interventions increasingly effective. Just as electricity and manufacturing were the industries that stimulated the growth of the rest of the economy at the beginning of the 20th century, healthcare is the growth industry of the 21st century. It is a leading sector, which means that expenditures on healthcare will pull forward a wide array of other industries including manufacturing, education, financial services, communications, and construction.

I'd rather, of course, this expansion be done primarily through the private sector. But if it isn't, and government expands, well, what of it? Our extra money from productivity will be going to finance longer lives, and we will be slightly worse off (from deadweight loss from taxation) than otherwise. Suboptimal, yes. A crisis, no.

I should note, by the way, that these projections are somewhat conservative relative to some others out there. People have dire predictions about those as well, which I find equally non-credible.


HR 1207 clears committee, attachs to HR 4173 and passes.

C4L:

So here's the good news: the Paul amendment passed with the bill! No matter how bad the overall bill, it's still pretty incredible that we were able to get a thorough audit of the Fed all the way through the House.

Personally, I don't care how bad the overall bill is. Auditing the Fed is the first step to abolishing yet another US central bank.

I wonder how this will play out in the Senate, probably the same way it played out for these fellas with those nice taxpayer funded ear muffs:

Well, one can hope the Senate and Presidente allow this audit to happen. Otherwise they just may build a prison for all of us, the southern fence is getting built right now.

FIRED UP! READY TO GITMO!


A Champion By Any Other Name Would Be Just as Profitable

Speaking of what makes a "true champion" and the continuing destruction of college football, I read this absurd story from Lester Munson on the latest meddling of Congress into the BCS:

Federal legislation that will lead to a college football playoff tournament will move a step closer to reality on Wednesday in a hearing before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection will consider a bill that would allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prohibit any bowl game from calling itself a "national championship" unless the game is "the final game of a single elimination post-season playoff system." The subcommittee is expected to vote on the proposal on Wednesday after a line-by-line consideration of the bill.

Written and sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), the bill is a direct attack on the BCS and, if enacted, would bring the long simmering controversy over the BCS to an end. In a legislative process that is long and can be tortuous, the hearing is a significant step. This is the furthest any bill on the BCS controversy has ever progressed on Capitol Hill.

I'm not going to argue that this represents a stupid government intervention into private economic affairs or a blatant attack on free speech. That is obviously true.

No, what interests me about this story is Munson's belief that this bill would "would bring the long simmering controversy over the BCS to an end." I think it's quite clear that it wouldn't. Since Congress has not (yet) decided it can impose a playoff system, it's working through its authority over false advertising. So you can't call something a "championship". Who cares?

Does anyone honestly think the NCAA wouldn't respond to this either by (1) calling the championship game something else like the "Awesome Megabowl!", or (2) just doing away with the BCS and going back to the old system. After all, everyone on Earth will know when a matchup between a #1 and a #2 is coming, and that it almost certainly will decide who ends up winning the polls. How much can the words "national champion" be worth in advertising? It has got to be smaller than what the schools would give up through the destruction of the bowl system.

Now, I'm virtually alone in viewing that as a good thing, since I'm anti-playoffs for sporting reasons. But even if you are a proponent of playoffs, given the money at stake, wouldn't that strike you as a far more likely outcome than acquiescence?


Sock puppet imperialism and the non-existent republic.

What happens when your wrist deep in the nether cavities of foreign leaders that you protect with the blood of your fascist storm troopers?

Things fall apart. Can you honestly blame these sad sack freedom fighters that are attempting to resist the quisling state that the US Federal Government has imposed upon them? I know I cant. Matter of fact, I salute them for their continued resistance to foreign occupation, it renews my faith in humanity. The outcome in Iraq will be decided by time and fates, not the sound and fury of unremarkable peoples who languish over the morals they posses but fail to impose on foreigners.

Today is a good day for the anti-state. Not only are the evil terrorists in Iraq proving that the state cannot protect itself, let alone its citizens... but we are also getting some head way in our own occupation!

It seems the ideas of nullification are spreading throughout these United States. As with the state level resistance to Real ID, it all comes down to money. The federales cannot afford as many of these control grid projects as they once could, and the states are unwilling to pony up the dough.

Nullification leads to secession on the long road back to the republic. Sure the union can play the abusive husband role once again and beat and abuse the battered spouse one more time. Will they get away with it when those who resist are better organized and more diffuse? When the wife poisons the husbands dinner?

Our freedom may come in the form of a US default on debt, freedom at a terrifying and almost unprecedented level in the history of these United States.

These are exciting times indeed.


Forget Copenhagen

There is going to be a great deal of discussion in the coming weeks about the climate change negotiations to be held in Copenhagen later this month. Almost without notice, however, there could be technological changes brewing which have a much greater impact on carbon emissions than any treaty signed this year could ever hope to (hat tip: Megan McArdle):

Researchers in the Netherlands created what was described as soggy pork and are now investigating ways to improve the muscle tissue in the hope that people will one day want to eat it.

No one has yet tasted their produce, but it is believed the artificial meat could be on sale within five years.

Vegetarian groups welcomed the news, saying there was “no ethical objection” if meat was not a piece of a dead animal.

Personally, I'm not really particularly worried about global warming, but if one is, this could be tremendous news. Shifting to vegetable-based food has been estimated to be equivalent to reducing driving by 8000 miles. And this would have the added advantage of actually having a prayer of working to reduce emissions.

Politics tends to be a focal point of conversation (perhaps especially for libertarians), but it's worth keeping in mind that in the many cases, factors beyond the control of elected officials are even more important. And thank God for that.


Which side do you support? Mu.

In response to the judicious remarks of my friend Hodja whose comments on my blog I appreciate immensely, I will add a few clarifications to complete my previous Defense of Libertarian Imperialism in a series of posts.

First, and most importantly, I think that hodja and I actually agree on the importance of staying out (emotionally, physically, etc.) of conflicts that others try to impose upon us. Everytime you manage to stay out of a conflict into which others are trying to draw you against your will, you've made a small victory against oppression. I have even quite a a few posts on this topic already, most of them in French: mu — the zen buddhist answer that unasks a question the premises of which you deny to accept.

When "my" government forces me to go to war with bad guys, I may or may not object on the principle that only a less criminal government has the right to fight a more criminal one — but I do object in either case to their drafting my support (in form of increased taxes) for not just for this war of theirs but also for the details of their implementation of it. Now similarly, when "my" government refuses to go to war with another government that it declares is legit, I may or may not object according to the principle that the other government is or isn't deserving to be toppled — but I do object to their preventing me (with my own tax money!) from supporting wars I think are just and worth fighting in the specific way that I think they ought to be waged. In either case, they are drafting my support to their specific implementation of specific goals no less in times of forced "peace" than in times of forced "war". My opposition to their monopoly on the provision of security is wholly independent from any particular decision they make or fail to make to declare and misimplement war or peace.

Moreover, inasmuch as anyone is lobbying with any power towards influencing said government into either going to war or not going to war — he is exerting political power, and I am objecting to this power just as much from them as from anyone with any bit of government power. I am just as much against peace-mongers as against war-mongers. "Do not speak in my name" is my equal message to both. Of course, most people who blather either way are but fools without any power proportionate to the noise they are making, wasting both their time and mine. Nevertheless they do participate in the general brainwashing and the competition for who manages to temporarily be the tyrant who will impose his will upon me, whichever is their position on this particular conflict. And indeed, the main argument of most "peacemongers" is not at all to oppose the spending of trillions of dollars of stolen money by government — they just want to spend it in their own soul-crushing socialist enslavement schemes. Slow death instead of quick death.

That is why an honest man's first and vehement response to any intimidation towards taking side in a conflict should be "mu": to refuse to take sides and to waste resources into something that is none of one's business, upon which one has no influence whatsoever, something that is beyond one's competence in more ways than one, whereas one has more important and effective things to do. Leave the decision and the responsibility for it fall upon each empowered government official, who'll be making the decision independently from you anyway. Meanwhile, focus on doing good where actual good one can do.

And it is indeed an actual good cheaply achieved to disarm the trap of "big urgent catastrophes" that crooks prepare and that your friends may be falling into. Help your friends not become the useful idiots of statist oppression, both victims that they are of mental traps laid by the political oppressors who seek their support, and contagious propagators of these viral memes that victimize them.

(Cross-posted to my livejournal: http://fare.livejournal.com/150094.html)


In Defense of Libertarian Imperialism

(Cross-posted from http://fare.livejournal.com/149824.html)

Many libertarians, after Rothbard, start from the (correct) assumption that one's government is one's first and most direct enemy, to the conclusion that one should always side with the enemies of one's current oppressor. Rothbardians have thus prolificly denounced the US and supported its enemies in its hot and cold wars with National Socialist Germany, International Socialist Russia, Communist China, North Korea, North Vietnam, National Islamist Iran or Iraq, etc.

Of course, applying the same "logic", the respective citizens of those countries whose government are in conflict with USG should in turn support the US government in its fight against their own — if only their own government wouldn't murder them immediately at the mere utterance of such a support. And to take this line of reasoning to its conclusion, a Pole in 1939 should have supported Hitler and Stalin as opponents to his current oppressive government.

A "logic" that reaches different conclusions for different people is actually not a logic. It's polylogism, a fallacy of double standards, a rhetorical device to back whichever absurdity one fancies. Moreover, underlying this fallacy, we see another typical case where people who should know better fall into an accounting fallacy: just because a current oppressor is identified (current account negative) current non-oppressors (current account zero) are considered a better alternative as part of an unrelated future choice between oppressors.

"There are two kinds of pacifists: those who try to disarm the aggressors, and those who try to disarm the victim." At the margin, you may only have the choice between two oppressors. Making this economic (moral) choice about the future based on a historical accounting of one's past personal relationship with them is completely stupid and baseless. The enemy of your current oppressor may oppress you far more than said current oppressor if he wins, not to speak of his current victims, as Hitler and Stalin may have amply demonstrated to the hypothetical Pole who would have believed the rothbardian argument.

Some oppressors are objectively better than others. And one should support the better oppressors against the worse oppressors, whichever of them is currently oppressing one. For all its warts, the corrupt US-backed South Vietnamese regime was better than the wanton mass-murdering Russia-backed North Vietnam, and should have been supported in its war of defense against the communist aggressor. The wanton mass-murdering Russia-backed North Vietnam itself was better than the outright genocidal China-backed khmer rouge, and should have been supported in its war of aggression against that regime. The latter regimes were no less imperialist than the previous for being backed by Russia or China rather than the US or France; but they were much less libertarian.

Similarly, for all the crimes committed by their men, the British and French Colonial Powers should have been supported in their conquests of barbarian and totalitarian powers that previously existed in Africa, India, Vietnam, etc. In all those countries, colonial oppression may have been a bad thing, pre-colonial oppression was worse, and so was post-colonial oppression. The regimes that were toppled by colonial imperialists were never peaceful to their own people, and had no "right" to remain in place. The offenses they committed against their later victors may have been large (as in the case of systematic muslim raping enslavers around the mediterranean sea) or comparatively trifling (as in the case of various disputes with european merchants or missionaries); they were often reason enough to wage war, and even when not, the new conqueror had no less right to rule than the previous one; only more so for his more liberal laws.

But apparently, to the racists who call themselves anti-colonialists, the color of the skin of the ruler matters more than whether he's an honest, competent administrator or a corrupt wanton mass-murderer. And so the racists and leftists from the Western Establishment, after conquering the University, the main-stream media and the public administrations, have managed to push for local brown-faced mass-murderers to replace rather honest white administrators everywhere that a colonial power once existed, tamed after its initial bloody installation. Worse, they have successfully disarmed and embargoed those who were resisting communism in Russia, China, Vietnam and paralyzed the attempts of western reactionaries to help the victims.

Let it not be said that those of us who call for the use of force against barbarians are pro-war. The war was started long ago, and the enemies of life, property and liberty have never granted any truce even less peace, to those they seek to oppress. Those who deny property rights and claim totalitarian power over our lives are at war with us, whether their agenda is open or remains concealed behind pleas for greater "social justice" and claims of "saving the planet". They have successfully subverted many weak societies and their entryism in all venues of power is now bearing fruit even in the formerly strongest societies. Expect no mercy from these enemies. And grant them none.

The essential proficiency in political science is to distinguish friends from foes. You may be a fool and not know the difference; the enemies of liberty are quintessential political beasts and sense this difference very well. You're a fool if you believe yourself at peace with socialists, islamists and other totalitarians. You're a fool no less if you realize there is conflict but think you can bargain, negotiate or compromise your way into peace with them. Any appeasement talk with totalitarians can fool but yourself and your allies, never the enemy. Their very nature, the way and the reason they live, their deepest aspiration, their ultimate value, is to prey on producers; there is no more peace to be had with them than with the plague. If you're waiting for men in black to knock at your door before you realize these men are at war with you, you're a pretty useless ally in this war; you're just another of these "useful idiots" as Lenin called them.

Free Market defense agencies would certainly have to fight attempts by the totalitarians to seize power; meanwhile totalitarians would certainly do systematic entryism in whichever defense agencies they can to turn them into their tool. And so this eternal war will certainly continue in the Anarchy dreamed by anarcho-capitalists just as it exists now, though freedom to choose one's defender may make it easier to win that war over and over again. In any case, fighting back at the totalitarians will happen in the Free Societies of Tomorrow, and is thus certainly no crime. It thus isn't a crime now even in the Semi-Free Societies of Today, and wasn't a crime in the Semi-Free Societies of Yesterday, though those who may have waged this war may themselves not have been innocent of other lesser crimes.

However, inasmuch as there are many tyrants to be kicked out in the world today there is no more an Imperial force to kick them out and replace them with something better. Inasmuch as there are a whole lot of totalitarian activists to be crushed, there is no Imperial force to crush them and spread civilization in place of the poisons these activists spread in people's minds. "Conservatives" and "Neo-conservatives" have bitten bait, hook and line into the "progressive" ideology of Democracy, and will sacrifice all liberties on the altar of this God That Failed. They cannot replace tyranny with anything but another tyranny in foreign countries, and even at home they are part of the problem rather than the solution. Meanwhile, "progressives" and outright "socialists" continue with little impediment on their war on liberty, and there is no one to stop them, only minor hurdles that slow them down. National armies and police forces, having monopolized the defense of property rights in the last semi-free countries able to fight, are now securily controlled by enemies of liberty. The war has been waged, and it has been won by the Enemy.

But this war was waged first with ideas. The reconquest will also happen first with ideas. Before guns may speak on our side again and at long last give the totalitarians a taste of their own medecine, we have a long way to go. Happily, modern technology makes it easier than ever for ideas to spread; and so, we must wage the war with ideas, with faith that it is precisely what makes our ideas good that will make them prevail in the end.


Gun Control Outrage of the Day

I keep holding out hope that this story is some sort of bizarre hoax. Via Alex Massie:

A former soldier who handed a discarded shotgun in to police faces at least five years imprisonment for "doing his duty".

Paul Clarke, 27, was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday – after finding the gun and handing it personally to police officers on March 20 this year.

The jury took 20 minutes to make its conviction, and Mr Clarke now faces a minimum of five year's imprisonment for handing in the weapon.

[. . . ]

In his statement, he said: "I took it indoors and inside found a shorn-off shotgun and two cartridges.

"I didn't know what to do, so the next morning I rang the Chief Superintendent, Adrian Harper, and asked if I could pop in and see him.

"At the police station, I took the gun out of the bag and placed it on the table so it was pointing towards the wall."

Mr Clarke was then arrested immediately for possession of a firearm at Reigate police station, and taken to the cells.

I say I hope this is all a mistake or prank, because this story seems to be getting very little attention in the press, and it seems like it would be. Although it apparently was in the Sun print edition.

I honestly don't know how people like Radley Balko or our own Randall McElroy read these things constantly and stay sane. I'm an economist and get pretty annoyed at bad policy, but rarely does it make me feel physically ill like reading this story did. Disgusting.


Is it possible to own a radio frequency ?

Over at FR33 Agents, Pambas! asks, "Is it possible to own a radio frequency ?":

Here is the scenario:

A have a broadcasting station, from which he decide to broadcast in the 100 Mhz frequency music and talk-shows, or whatever cruise is mind. The station can broadcast in a radius if 25 km.

within the is area, B have a property, and can he decide to broadcast on the same frequency has A, with the same range has A broadcast station.

Can B sue A because the radio waves trespass his property ?

Share you though on this one :D Its not has easy has it seems ...

Here's my reply:

If A and B were both information broadcasters competing for consumers, I think they would be motivated to resolve their conflict quickly--sadly, from experience, by forming a cartel. If the cartel could not be enforced, market participants would play a positive-sum game of making the market as attractive as possible to gain new consumers.

The more difficult situation is where B is not participating in the information broadcast market, but is generating noise in the frequency, perhaps by the use of some sparking electrical equipment. In this case, information broadcasters would be creating a secondary market for organizations that could maximize the amount of useful medium for transmission--perhaps insurance companies that could pool the risk of accidental bandwidth pollution across geography and frequency and be large enough to participate in other markets common to the polluter, such as finance or contract reputation. At some stage, the cost/benefits would have to balance so either the polluter would be motivated to reduce his noise, or the broadcasters would abandon their plans to use transmission through the electromagnetic spectrum.

It might be sad for entrepreneur A who invested resources in a broadcast station without considering the problems that may occur, but eventually he and other owners of capital will become more careful in their planning before sinking their resources into new technology.

In short, entrepreneurs swim in this ocean all the time. Over time, more of us will realize that coercion is only a short-term fix for problems at best. As this happens, the growing market for liberty will draw more resources into non-coercive institutions.

Can you think of anything I should add?


Reflections on Motherhood

On my first anniversary of becoming a mother I feel compelled to write about the very erratic attitudes that seem to be prevalent in American culture regarding motherhood. While there are a great many people who look down on stay-at-home mothers, what shocked me was how many people are offended by women who return to work while their child is under a year old.

Through my own struggles with a (female) boss who decided that motherhood had turned me into a bad therapist, I discovered that getting run off from a job after returning from maternity leave is surprisingly common.

The same employer who encouraged you to stay as long as possible, and saw you as indispensable while pregnant, suddenly sees you as damaged goods upon return. People seem to look for the virtues in a pregnant woman, and the shortcomings in a working mother.

It has become a new hobby of mine to discuss the experiences of new mothers in their first year, specifically in how the attitudes of those around them changes after giving birth.

Here are some of the common attitudes and prejudices the moms that I have talked to, encounter:

Stay-at-home moms, even well educated ones, are treated suddenly as undereducated, unsophisticated, un-ambitious, and occasionally they are seen as less intelligent than they were before the birth.

Working moms are seen as less professional or unprofessional, tired, hormonal, negligent of their children, cold, over-ambitious, and are perceived to have become less skilled and/or less valuable than they were before the birth.

In reality none of us have become less. As divine as the pregnant woman is often seen, the new mother seems to be seen as proportionately vulgar. But the truth is nothing has been accomplished until the baby comes out safely. It is the process of not just learning to be a mother, but of learning to become a good parent that we should value most. A process that cannot truly begin until the pregnancy has ended.

It is this same process that new mothers find themselves engulfed in when making the decision to stay at home or return to work. No matter what she chooses the path ahead will take skill, intellect, and resourcefulness to manage. It is not a choice any of us take lightly and regardless of the path chosen, mothers should not be looked down upon.


Change. Hope.

Every generation must relearn the lesson: don't trust politicians.

A year later our candidate that valued technology, openness, and government transparency, the darling of Silicon Valley, is up to the same old bullshit.


Contra-cynicism

To cleanse my spirit after that bout of cynicism, here is Butler Shaffer from the Murray N. Rothbard Memorial Lecture, Austrian Scholars Conference, 2003:

Each of us is biologically and experientually unique, and Liberty is the only condition in which we can express our uniqueness.

If we are to discover our connectedness with the world, we must understand that what we have in common with one another is the need to protect the conditions with which the Liberty of each of us can be exercised. Only as we learn to respect the inviolability of each individual, can mankind hope to survive. You and I are mankind--its present, and its future.

We must then declare to ourselves, as well as to our neighbors, that mankind--integrated in both body and spirit--will not only survive, but it will prosper in this world. That life belongs to the living, not to abstract collectives, regardless of their exalted trappings, or the duration of their tenure over the minds of men and women.

We must further declare that the spirit of mankind is going to survive on this planet, in the only place where it can ever be found, namely, in the autonomous and spontaneous expressions of individuals. It is time for those who believe otherwise to stand aside, as we support one another in the effort to reclaim our souls.


Cynical Epiphany #2

Same disclaimer as before.

One reason most people think the Sibel Edmonds allegations won't be investigated are that too many people, from both parties, are involved.

But another reason is that potential investigators benefit by having a large file of dirty politicians whenever they need a favor.


Cynical Epiphany #1

I don't like being cynical. I'd rather not focus on the depravity of humans. But sometimes I consider an idea and ask, "What prevents this from occurring?" and can't come up with a good answer.

Thus, the purpose of the collecting all of our communications at the NSA's Utah Datacenter is not to be able to sift through data to identify potentially dangerous individuals. It is the much simpler computational task to start with an individual of interest and then to look through their communications to find some leverage to gain their cooperation. Example: need a to make sure an accused person is convicted? Search through his lawyer's past and the past of her family and colleagues until you have what you need to make sure she isn't quite doing her best during his trial.


Spiteful Competition?

In her latest reply to Nye and Wilkinson at this month's Cato Unbound dialogue on economic inequality, Elizabeth Anderson uses the phrase "spiteful competition" no less than four times. Does anyone have any idea what exactly this is supposed to mean? I could offer some guesses, but let's see what she apparently believes about this concept:

- Conspicuous consumption is a form of spiteful competition
- Not all forms of status competition can be classified as spiteful competition

I'm at something of a loss here. Pure status competition in general is usually seen as a zero or negative-sum activity, and if displacing someone else on the social ladder isn't spiteful, what is? Does it have to be accompanied by an upturned nose and catty banter in order to qualify? This strikes me as an important source of confusion in Anderson's overall argument: What delineates "good" status competition from "bad" status competition? What forms of inequalities give rise to good versus bad forms of status competition?

It's unclear whether Anderson actually believes that reducing income inequality would actually reduce status competition instead of just causing it to be expressed along some other dimensions of identity. Observe the trendy prevelence of food and environmental snobbery among certain parts of the American population - can anyone honestly say that these causes have not become broad cultural movements used in order to create "spiteful" hierarchies of social enlightenment? Anderson appeals to the lack of conspicuous consumption in Scandanavian countries, but does she believe that the fact that these countries have much greater status stratification by job title is completely coincidental? Or is this okay because, for whatever reasons, this sort of stratification isn't done "spitefully"?

I can understand the concerns about status competition, really. And I agree that positive-sum outcomes could often be attained if individuals had mechanisms to constrain themselves from engaging in it. But at the same time it strikes me as incredibly naive to believe that eliminating status competition along one dimension of social reality by fiat wouldn't simply result in greater status competition along other closely-associated dimensions. Basic economic logic argues that banning a good will lead to greater demand for its close substitutes at the margin, and status can often be modeled as a good which obeys these sorts of rules. If income inequality is diminished, why would we not expect for people to just shift their energies into activities that generate status rents but don't actually increase income? Would we expect the subsequent investments in status goods to be less wasteful than investments in Gucci bags and toy dogs? Would these benefits outweigh the costs produced by then the efficiency losses which heavily-progressive taxation would generate? These are the questions which Anderson should be trying to address.