Archive for the ‘Not So Crazy Libertarian Ideals’ tag
Early this year Ron Paul decided to ignore the free-market principles he usually advocates and attempted to seize the domain names RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org from their current owners. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the organization Ron Paul filed his complaint with, not only agreed that the current owners of RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org should be allowed to maintain their ownership but the organization also found Mr. Paul guilty of reverse domain name hijacking:
The owners had offered to sell RonPaul.com to Paul but also offered to give him RonPaul.org as an alternative if Paul didn’t want to buy the .com. Since Paul filed a UDRP against RonPaul.org after the owner offered to give it to him for free, the panel found the case to be reverse domain name hijacking.
Respondent has requested, based on the evidence presented, that the Panel make a finding of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking. In view of the unique facts of this case, in which the evidence demonstrates that Respondent offered to give the Domain Name ronpaul.org to Complainant for no charge, with no strings attached, the Panel is inclined to agree. Instead of accepting the Domain Name, Complainant brought this proceeding. A finding of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking seems to this Panel to be appropriate in the circumstances.
The panel did not find reverse domain name hijacking in the RonPaul.com case (pdf), but determined that Paul did not prove a lack of rights or legitimate interest in the domain by the respondent. As a result, the panel ruled the domain name should remain with its current owner.
Libertarian ethics usually grants property ownership to the first claimant. If you come across a piece of land that isn’t in use and hasn’t been “improved” by somebody you can mix your labor with the land to claim it as your own. Since Mr. Paul is a strong advocate of libertarianism it’s rather ironic that he decided to make an attempt to grab RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org from the first claimants. Free-market principles would state that Mr. Paul should have purchased the domain names for the asking price or negotiated a more favorable price. I commend the WIPO for ruling in favor of the current holders instead of the more famous individual.
For months now, there has been a steady rumbling of people packing up and moving out. There are few reliable figures of the numbers of people leaving, in part because many are moving within the E.U., where there are no immigration requirements for Europeans. Yet for those of us living in France, the exodus has been notable. Around New Year, a moving truck rolled up to our building and loaded the worldly possessions of the couple and four children living below us as they headed off to Singapore where better prospects awaited the father of the family. Earlier last week, a woman flopped on to a bench next to me in the schoolyard of the school our children both attend, fatigued from apartment-hunting in London, where she is moving with her family next month — driven out by what she describes as the aggravation of running a small business with 35-hour work weeks and by tax hikes introduced by President François Hollande, who was elected last May. “I resisted the move, but it’s become impossible,” she says.
To paraphrase a famous Star Wars quote, “The more you tighten your grip, Hollande, the more people will slip through your fingers.” Statist socialists often believe the solution to a floundering country is to increase taxes. They believe that collapsing countries can be salvaged if only the state is able to collect enough money to keep things going. In the end this never works because people will eventually leave a country if conditions become worse that they’re willing to tolerate. When you have to make a decision between putting food on the table or paying taxes to keep yourself out of prison you tend to disappear in pursuit of greener pastures.
At some point Hollande will be faced with a decision. He will either have to accept the fact his policies are driving people out of France or he will have to close the borders to prevent people from fleeing. If history is any indicator he will choose the latter, which means anybody wanting to flee France needs to do it now.
Americans should take note because this phenomenon is beginning to happen here. Droves of people are fleeing New York and California, two of the most burdensome states in the Union. The federal government has been increase its rate of expropriation for some time and shows no signs of relenting. At some point in America’s future there will be a massive exodus of people, which will likely cause the individual and federal governments to enact border controls to prevent capital from leaving. Fortunately technologies like Bitcoin exist that allow individuals to conceal their wealth from Big Brother’s prying eyes.
We all know there is a difference between English and political speak. Political speak is purposely designed to conceal true meaning whereas English is meant to communicate an idea in a manner that others will understand. I thought it would be a spot of fun to translate some political speak into English and I’ve found the perfect quote to start with:
A pair of DFL House members who cast politically risky votes to legalize gay marriage this session won’t have to worry about the repercussions until next year. Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Lori Gildea has ruled that Reps. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, and John Ward, DFL-Baxter, will not be subject to recall elections, rejecting the efforts of a local Republican activist who had claimed that the legislators should face removal from office.
“Constituent disagreement with votes taken by their elected representative does not equate to malfeasance by the representative,” Gildea wrote, in language which appears in both of her dismissals. “As the supreme court has recognized, the remedy for constituents who disagree with an elected representative’s positions or voting record is not in the recall procedures.”
The literal translation of Gildea’s statement would be, “We, judges of the state, have decided that the state-sanctioned process allowed to the serfs to remove state representatives from office is not the proper method for the serfs to deal with state representatives that fail to abide by the desires of the serfs.”
In other words if a group of serfs suffers under a “representative” that doesn’t uphold their values their only recourse is to wait for the next election cycle. While many proponents of democracy may believe such chicanery goes against the ideas of representation that democracy supposedly provides the truth is such stopgaps must be put into place because it is impossible for one person to represent more than him or herself. If communities were allowed to remove a “representative” that failed to abide by the desires of that community then every “representative” would get removed immediately because they cannot represent everybody in the community. In other words democracy is a sham. Its proponents claim that democracy is the one form of government that ensures everybody has a voice but, in truth, only the members of the state have a voice. Everybody else goes without say over their own lives.
In this case the state decided that the option is provided to the serfs to deal with unwanted “representatives” was no longer allowed. The serfs have no recourse because they are not members of the state.
As it turns out Apple isn’t the only organization that avoids paying taxes. Another well-known organization is actively trying to avoid the tax man but it’s not a greedy capitalist private enterprise, it’s a benevolent egalitarian public organization called the National Security Agency (NSA):
Under a bill the 2013 Utah Legislature passed, the National Security Agency’s new Bluffdale data center might be taxed on the millions of dollars of energy it is expected to consume, providing a potential windfall for an obscure state authority.
The NSA is protesting the possible tax, even though a Utah attorney said he informed the agency about HB325, and the top U.S. electronic spy agency voiced no opposition until an official emailed Gov. Gary Herbert’s staff weeks after Herbert signed the measure.
“We are quite concerned [about] this,” Harvey Davis, NSA director of installations and logistics, wrote in the April 26 email, obtained through a Utah open records law request.
In a follow-up email Davis sent 31 minutes later, he explained: “The long and short of it is: Long-term stability in the utility rates was a major factor in Utah being selected as our site for our $1.5 billion construction at Camp Williams. HB325 runs counter to what we expected.”
You see, when an evil private enterprise that provides goods and services people voluntarily buy tries to keep its wealth it is an evil plunderer that the state sees necessary to destroy. When an evil public enterprise that spies on the general populace and backs up its existence at the point of a gun attempts to keep its ill-gotten booty the rules change. Suddenly exceptions must be made so taxes can be avoided.
This story demonstrates succinctly that there are different sets of rules. One set of rules applies to non-state agencies and another applies to the state itself.* When non-state agencies fail to pay taxes they are persecuted and told that they must pay their “fair share.” When a state agency is faced with a tax bill it protests, screams, and files official complaints to avoid paying them. Somehow they don’t have a “fair share” to pay. One thing is certain, nobody likes the tax man.
*There is also a third set of rules that applies to us lowly serfs. Fortunately it is a simple document that only contains one rule. Unfortunately that sentences is, “You are the slaves, we are the masters, and you must obey every one of our decrees or suffer whatever punishment we see fit.”
It’s time for another installment of Politics 101.
Last night was the last night was the deadline for political matters in the State of Minnesota. During the final hours a bill was passed that will allow unions to force daycare providers to unionize. Obviously most people who identify with the “left” side of the political spectrum are cheering while most people who identify with the “right” side of the political spectrum are calling foul. Political matters don’t interest me but it’s worth pointing out why the bill passed because it’s the same reason any bill passes.
Let’s look at the two sides of this debate. On one side we have the unions. For the most part modern unions are big businesses. They purport to defend workers from their bosses but most of the higher ups in the major unions are bosses themselves. The two unions involved in this fight were the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Being high up in the AFSCME has its benefits as does being high up in the SEIU. Any organization able to offer six-figure salaries tends to have plenty of resources to throw at politicians.
One the other side we have the daycare providers and anti-unions activists. Many of the daycare providers are independent entities operated by a handful of people while the anti-union activists are primarily there because they don’t like unions (or, at least, the unions involved in this fight).
Neither group has a great deal of resources at hand compared to their competition, which is why they lost. Politics is the art of initiating force en masse. The initiator of force, the state, exists solely through expropriation. In order to accomplish something politically you must have something to offer the state. The AFSCME and SEIU, being major corporations, have a lot of resources that can be transferred to friendly politicians. Major campaign contributions, jobs as lobbyists and consultants for politicians exiting politics, and even some information that is of value for insider trading can all be provided by the two unions. Meanwhile the daycare providers and anti-union activists have little to offer. Since most daycare providers are small organizations they cannot offer major campaign contributions or jobs for politicians exiting politics and since they’re generally private entities they have nothing for politicians to trade on the stock market. The same goes for anti-union activists.
In order to succeed politically you must have sometime of value to offer the politicians. The reason the gun control advocates lost this year is because they had nothing to offer while gun rights advocates could offer plenty of headaches for politicians who voted for gun control. When one side is offering nothing and the other is offering headaches politicians tend to give the side offering headaches what they want hoping they’ll go away. The battle over daycare providers is slightly different since one side has nothing to offer while the other side has a great deal to offer. In such cases the politicians will almost always align themselves with the side offering the riches.
It doesn’t matter how many protests you perform or how many people you get to support your side at the Capitol, if you doesn’t have a sacrifice to offer the politicians you’re not getting anything from them. Democracy isn’t about the will of the people, it’s about the will of the decision makers and the decision makers can be bought.
Of course there is a solution but it would require daycare providers to join the “underground” economy. That is what I suggest all people do but, for some reason, many people believe that the “legitimate” economy is where they should conduct business.
Smokers of Minnesota are up in arms over the increase in cigarette taxes:
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Outside downtown office buildings, many smokers didn’t want to talk about the possibility of a tax that will push a lot of cigarette packs into the $8 range.
Dan Jones says the tax may be the push he needs
The state says it has built the expected drop in smokers into their revenue projections. The current tobacco tax pulls in $423 million, and the state is predicting the higher tax would pull in $618 million a year.
The tax hike isn’t surprising since Mark Dayton stated plundering from smokers was one idea to subsidize billionaire Zigy Wilf’s stadium. What is surprising is the reaction many are having to the news. Many smokers are pissed, other smokers are thinking about quitting, and small government advocates are rightly pointing out that smoking is an activity enjoyed by many poor individuals so a tax on cigarettes is a burden on the poor (to enrich the top 1% no less!). I guess, to borrow an old marketing phrase from Apple, I think different. A tax increase on cigarettes in Minnesota is a business opportunity! Anybody willing to buy cheaper cigarettes out of state, deliver them to Minnesota, and sell them to people addicted to nicotine stands to make a tidy profit.
Tax increases, while depriving some portion of the population of wealth, generate business opportunities for smugglers. Increasing the tax on cigarettes makes the unprofitable enterprise of buying cigarettes in one state and selling them in another profitable. In fact, depending on the tax difference between the state cigarettes are purchased in and the state they are sold in, the profit could be very high.
One of my goals in life is to show people how statism can be exploited for personal profit without resorting to the statist tactic of initiating violence. Smuggling cigarettes into Minnesota is looking to be one of those wonderfully exploitable endeavors.
I’m a big fan of decentralized technologies. In my quest to decouple myself from the major corporations that seem inclined to wage war on the Internet I’ve been looking high and low for a search engine not run by Google or Microsoft. My quest has finally provided some fruit in the form of YaCy.
YaCy is a peer-to-peer search engine that can be run on Windows, Linux, or OS X (technically, since it’s written in Java, it should also run on other platforms). Instead of relying on centralized entities to crawl and index the Internet YaCy relies on each peer. I’ve setup a test server running YaCy to see how well it works and so far it shows promise. Granted, the search data isn’t nearly as complete as Google or Microsoft’s data at this point but that will almost certainly improve overtime. YaCy doesn’t do as good of a job at ranking search criteria based on how useful it is (at least in the eye’s of whatever search algorithm is being used) but that is likely to improve in time as well.
With those criticisms aside, and considering the limited amount of time I’ve had to play with it, YaCy does have one major advantage over Google or Bing: there is no central authority. State’s rely on central authorities to coerce into removing data when they want to enforce their archaic censorship laws. If no central authority exists it becomes much harder to enact censorship, which is where my primary interest in YaCy derives.
I’m planning to make the search interface publicly accessible in the near future so you guys can test it out. While I won’t promise a replacement for Google or Bing I will promise an interesting technology that’s worth experimenting with.
The more power the state obtains the lower the quality of life for the general populace is. Power production is one of the most heavily regulated markets. Although the state claims it must regulate power production in order to reduce pollution its interests in the market involves protecting its cronies from competition. Consider the Clean Air Act, which we’re told was passed to ensure better air quality. In actuality it was designed in such a way as to drum up business for expensive sulfur dioxide scrubbers and protect eastern coal producers. From Political Environmentalism by Terry L. Anderson:
Under the 1970 Clean Air Act, the EPA had established a policy whereby all coal plants were required to meet a set emission standard for sulfur dioxide. The original standard of 1.2 pounds of sulfur dioxide (SO,) per million British thermal units (BTUs) of coal could be met in a variety of ways.
Despite its apparent flexibility, this regulation had disparate regional effects. Most of the coal in the eastern United States is relatively “dirty” due to its high sulfur content. Western coal, on the other hand, is far cleaner. Using western coal enabled utilities and other coal-burning facilities to meet the federal standard without installing costly scrubbers to reduce the sulfur content of their emissions. At the time, scrubbers were so expensive that many midwestern firms found it less expensive to haul tons of low-sulfur coal from the West than to utilize closer, dirtier deposits.
When the Clean Air Act was revised in 1977, it was time for the eastern coal producers to get even. As Ackerman and Hassler (1981) noted, eastern producers of high-sulfur coal elected “to abandon their campaign to weaken pollution standards and take up the cudgels for the costliest possible clean air solution-universal scrubbing” (31). The result was a “bizarre coalition of environmentalists and dirty coal producers” that successfully advanced a new set of environmental standards that probably did more harm than good in much of the country (Ackerman and Hassler 1981, 27).
Under the 1977 law, coal plants had to meet both an emission standard and a technology standard. In particular, the law contained new-source-performance standards (NSPS) that forced facilities to attain a “percentage reduction in emissions.” In other words, no matter how clean coal was, a new facility would still be required to install scrubbers. This law destroyed low-sulfur coal’s comparative advantage, particularly in the Midwest and the East. If all new facilities had scrubbers, then there was no need to transport low-sulfur coal across the country. Less expensive, high-sulfur coal from the East would work just as well, even if it produced substantially greater emissions.
The result of such regulations is predictable, power production facilities pay more money to install sulfur dioxide scrubbers and we, the consumers, pay more money for electricity so the power production facility can pay off the scrubbers. We end up getting less electricity for more money and suffer a hit in our overall qualify of life because of it.
Now consider the United Kingdom (UK). That state’s rule over power production has led to a shortage of power. Being a state the only solution seen by the UK is rationing:
Fridges and freezers in millions of British homes will automatically be switched off without the owner’s consent under a ‘Big Brother’ regime to reduce the strain on power stations.
The National Grid is demanding that all new appliances be fitted with sensors that could shut them down when the UK’s generators struggle to meet demand for electricity.
Electric ovens, air-conditioning units and washing machines will also be affected by the proposals, which are already backed by one of the European Union’s most influential energy bodies. They are pushing for the move as green energy sources such as wind farms are less predictable than traditional power stations, increasing the risk of blackouts.
The result of the UK’s unwillingness to expand their power production with reliable sources may lead to massive amounts of food spoilage as refrigerators across wide swaths of the country shut themselves down and people dying of heatstroke because their air conditioners automatically shut off when it was 115 degrees outside. Once again the state’s desire to control everything is leading to a drop in the overall qualify of life and, in a rather ironic twist, a potential waste of food, which isn’t a green policy at all. Oh, and to add insult to injury, people living in the UK will be footing the bill for the development and installation of the technology that will allow the power facilities to automatically disable your appliances.
Why wouldn’t the power production companies demand to be allowed to build more reliable production facilities? Because that would cost them money and so long as they enjoy the state-provided protection from competition they have no motivation to actually spend money to improve their product. Who would want to spend millions to build a new power plant when they can charge more money for the same amount of electricity thanks to state-mandated rationing? Nobody, that’s who.
Central planners never learn. When one of their plans go awry they blame the data, implementation of the program, and anything else that allows them to avoid admitting central planning doesn’t work. Centralized plans rely on things never changing, which in an ever-changing world is a pretty stupid thing to rely on. Hell, the fucking continents don’t even remain the same!
The United Nations (UN), the largest central planning organization in the world, want people to supplement their diet with insects instead of current livestock:
A 200-page report, released at a news conference at the U.N. agency’s Rome headquarters, says 2 billion people worldwide already supplement their diets with insects, which are high in protein and minerals, and have environmental benefits.
Insects are “extremely efficient” in converting feed into edible meat, the agency said. On average, they can convert 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of feed into 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of insect mass. In comparison, cattle require 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of feed to produce a kilo of meat.
Most insects are likely to produce fewer environmentally harmful greenhouse gases, and also feed on human and food waste, compost and animal slurry, with the products being used for agricultural feed, the agency said.
Currently, most edible insects are gathered in forests and what insect farming does take place is often family-run and serves niche markets. But the U.N. says mechanization can ratchet up insect farming production. The fish bait industry, for example, has long farmed insects.
How could this possibly go wrong? Let’s pretend that the majority of the regions that currently rely on beef, poultry, and pork for their protein intake decide to rely on insects instead. While the number of cattle, chickens, and pigs raise by farmers would decrease the number of insects being raise would increase. Simply walking around in forests and gathering insects wouldn’t provide enough foodstuff to replace current livestock so insects would have to be farmed. Farming insects is likely to be more difficult than farming current livestock because insects are difficult to contain (and difficult to keep out of your house). The UN report notes that many insects feed off of waste but it fails to note that insects also feed off of crops. Have you ever heard the phrase “A plague of locust?” There’s a reason people use that phrase, it’s because locust have a pension for wiping out crops.
Now let’s pretend that one of the insect farmers experience a failure in the system they’re using to contain their insect herd. What consequences would follow a massive number of fast-breeding crop-consuming creatures breaking out of their cages? In all likelihood all crops in the vicinity would be wiped out. In other words foodstuff would escape, more foodstuff would be destroyed, and the people in our hypothetical society would face the potential of starvation.
Of course central planners tend to believe they can control everything so this scenario has likely been written off as impossible.
Minnesota is now the 12th state to repeal its prohibition against same-sex marriages. Needless to say some of my friends, specifically my deeply religious friends who believe its the state’s duty of uphold their religion’s definition of morality, are a bit upset. As you will soon learn I have no sympathy for them. The religious organizations that told them to oppose the repealing of the prohibition on same-sex marriages are the same organizations that made this outcome possible. Although I touched briefly on the subject I feel it’s important to drive home this fact.
Back in the day the stated told various religious organizations, “Hey guys, we’re going to define marriage.” Most of the religious organizations at that time were perfectly fine with that news because the state said it was going to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The Mormons weren’t overly enthusiastic about the news but they were a small enough minority that nobody cared what they thought. Likewise, homosexuality was stigmatized so great in those days that few would dare admit they were gay and therefore no opposition was raised against prohibition same-sex marriages. In other words statism worked exactly as it always does, the politically influential were able to wield the state’s capacity for violence against those who weren’t politically influential. What those short-sighted fools failed to realize is that things change.
Fast forward to modern times. Religious organizations have lost a great deal of their influence over the state. They can no longer wield the state’s capacity for violent reliably. The tables have turned and the same religious organizations that enjoyed the state’s power in the days of yore now lack a great deal of political influence. Now that the state isn’t favoring their definition of morality those religious organizations are pissed. Boo-fucking-hoo.
Those organizations made their bed when they agreed to ceded the power to define marriage to the state. Once the state declares a power for itself and remains mostly unchallenged it is practically impossible to rip that power from its hands. To make matters worse the longer the state holds power the more difficult it becomes to take it back. People living today never knew a time when marriage didn’t require some kind of permission slip from the state. Since things appear to be working and they know no alternative they’re unlikely to challenge the state’s declared power to define marriage. It really sucks to be one of those religious organizations that wants the power to define marriage back because, in all likelihood, they’re not getting it. The state didn’t just declare the power to define marriage, it sunk its claws deep into that declaration by tying anything and everything to its stupid permission slips.
Like it or not, marriage is no longer a religious institution, it’s a state-defined relationship used to determine who can have special privileges. Had those fools resisted the state’s power grab this entire fight probably wouldn’t have happened. The religious organizations could still choose to recognize only marriages between one man and one woman and everybody ignore those organizations. But those fools didn’t resist, they accepted the state’s power grab with open arms, and allowed marriage to become more than a religious institution. Why do you think homosexuals give a shit about marriage? It’s because they are relegated to being second-class citizens without having the ability to enter marriages. When you have a man getting arrested because he refused to leave his partner’s side at a hospital and he knows his arrest could have been avoided if the state recognized same-sex marriages you can damn well bet that he will fight for state-recognized same-sex marriage. When the state tells same-sex couples that they can’t adopt children [PDF] because their relationship lacks the state’s seal of approval you can damn well bet those couples are going to fight for a state-recognized seal of approval. And guess what, they and their allies (which I am) have the political influence and therefore can wield the state’s power.
If you oppose same-sex marriages for religious reasons let this lesson sink in. The next time the state tries to grab additional power, even if the power grab stands to directly benefit you, oppose it. Fight that power grab with every fiber of your being. Because once the state has that power it will keep that power, it will tie that power into its political machinery so tightly that it can’t be removed, and eventually that power will change hands and you’ll no longer receive the special privileges you once did.