A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Yes, Rights are Double-Edged Swords

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The argument over what is and isn’t a right used to primarily take place between governments and the people they claimed dominion over. Today, at least in the United States, the argument seems to be more and more taking place between government subjects and other government subjects. This shift seems most obvious on college campuses:

A coalition of marginalized students at Pomona College are demanding that the president of Pomona (one of the Claremont Colleges) take disciplinary action against student-journalists who write for The Claremont Independent, a conservative paper.

That’s not all. The students’ letter to the president also stridently rejects the very mission of a liberal arts college. The search for truth is little more than an attempt to silence marginalized people, in the view of these students. Accordingly, the campus administration must revise its commitment to free speech such that no one who espouses hateful views—as defined, in incredibly broad terms, by the offended parties themselves—is allowed to speak at Claremont.

“Free speech, a right many freedom movements have fought for, has recently become a tool appropriated by hegemonic institutions,” the students wrote in their letter. “It has not just empowered students from marginalized backgrounds to voice their qualms and criticize aspects of the institution, but it has given those who seek to perpetuate systems of domination a platform to project their bigotry.”

Let’s consider the claim that free speech has been appropriated. Why do so many people consider free speech a right? Is it so people can express popular opinions? No. Popular opinions usually aren’t the opinions that are being suppressed. The reason so many people consider free speech to be a right because it gives protection to people who are expressing unpopular ideas.

What constitutes an unpopular idea? Generally speaking, an unpopular idea is a minority idea within a particular sphere of influence. For example, expressing anti-war sentiments is an unpopular idea when it is being expressed at a pro-war rally. It is not an unpopular idea when expressed at an anti-war rally. Expressing anti-democratic ideas is an unpopular idea when it is being expressed pretty much anywhere in the United States. It is not an unpopular idea when expressed at an individualist anarchist meeting.

The beauty of the idea of the right to free speech is that it can turn a minority idea into a majority idea. Free speech is why same-sex marriage went from strongly opposed by the majority of people in this society heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian values to being generally accepted, at least within the realm of government marriage. Likewise, cannabis legalization efforts have been made possible because the right to free speech has allowed legalization advocates to inform the public that the government claims about cannabis are false. Within the sphere of United States society these two minority opinions were able to be expressed, which allowed same-sex marriage to be legalized throughout the country and has allowed cannabis legalization advocates to achieve victory in several states.

But free speech, as with any concept developed by humans, is a double-edged sword. It allows minority and majority opinions to be expressed. Free speech is not “appropriated” when people use it to express an opinion that is unpopular within your sphere of influence, it’s exactly what the concept of free speech was created to allow. If that aspect changes then the entire reason for free speech goes out the window because the majority opinion will become the only opinion that will legally expressible. Admittedly, this usually sounds acceptable to people who hold a majority opinion within a sphere of influence but that is only because they fail to realize that their sphere of influence isn’t the only sphere.

The people who submitted the complaint at Pomona College likely hold the majority opinion in the sphere of influence of that college campus. But they may or may not hold the majority opinion within the sphere of influence of California. They most likely don’t hold the majority opinion within the sphere of influence of the United States of America. If their advice were to be followed, if free speech was curtailed in such a way that only majority opinions could be expressed, these people may find themselves silenced within the State of California and almost certainly within the United States of America.

You will likely always hold a minority opinion in several spheres of influence. If you advocate for speech being limited in a sphere you hold a majority opinion in, it will be used as precedence to silence your opinion in spheres you hold a minority opinion in. Free speech can either be a double-edged sword that allows everybody to express their opinions or it can be a single-edged sword that only allows the majority to express their opinions.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 21st, 2017 at 11:00 am

Snapping Up Everything of Value

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The collapse of Venezuela continues unimpeded. A couple days ago the Venezuelan government announced that it was arming loyalists, likely in expectation of massive civil unrest. Yesterday that same government decided to seize an automobile plant from General Motors:

GM (GM) described the takeover as an “illegal judicial seizure of its assets.”

The automaker said the seizure showed a “total disregard” of its legal rights. It said that authorities had removed assets including cars from company facilities.

“[GM] strongly rejects the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities and will vigorously take all legal actions, within and outside of Venezuela, to defend its rights,” it said in a statement.

Authorities in Venezuela, which is mired in a severe economic crisis, did not respond to requests for comment.

This isn’t surprisingly. Only a fool would believe that the Venezuelan regime can be propped up much longer. Since the Maduro and his cronies don’t come off as fools, they’re probably preparing for the collapse of their regime. A lot of historical rulers when put in the same position started grabbing anything of wealth they could so they could enrich themselves before fleeing the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if Maduro seizes more valuable production facilities so he can sell off the assets to enlarge his bank account so he has a comfortable nest egg for his eventual escape.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 21st, 2017 at 10:30 am

Not Surprising for an Agency with a 95 Precent Failure Rate

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Almost two years ago it was revealed that the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) missed a whopping 95 precent of restricted items. You would think that such a damning report would have lead to a top to bottom rework of the agency’s practices. But the TSA is a government agency, which means it doesn’t suffer consequences for failing, unlike market actors, and therefore has no motivation to improve. That’s what, two years later, we still get to read stories like this:

An off-duty policewoman flew from Los Angeles international airport (LAX) to Taiwan with a gun in her hand luggage.

The weapon was not detected during security screening and Noell Grant only realised she was carrying it as she changed planes in Taipei.

At one point I noted that the TSA exists solely to provide warm and fuzzy feelings to passengers who are too ignorant to realize that the agency isn’t securing anything. But as these stories continue to role out even ignorant fools are likely becoming aware of the fact that the TSA is just as ineffective as every other government agency. When that realization sets in the warm and fuzzy feelings of ignorance vanish, which means the agency serves no purpose whatsoever. The TSA should be completely abolished tomorrow.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 21st, 2017 at 10:00 am

The Nazi Exception

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“I believe in the freedom of speech but…” “I believe in gun ownership but…” “I believe warrants should be required to search homes but…” Whenever you hear somebody tack on a “but” to their claim that they support a supposed right you know that the next thing coming out of their mouth will invalidate their claim.

Freedom of speech may be the only right cited more often than the right to keep and bear arms. How many times have you heard somebody say a variation of, “You can’t censor me! I have a First Amendment right!” If I had a nickel for everybody I have I’d probably be the wealthiest man on Earth. But many of the people who cite the First Amendment as protection against censoring their speech are quick to add a bunch of exceptions for speech they dislike. In recent times a lot of people have started citing the “Nazi Exception.” They claim that anybody who is advocating for Nazism, which is often a euphemism for any political speech they don’t agree with, should be censored. Fortunately, Ken White wrote a thorough refutation of the “Nazi Exception”:

Isn’t it simple? Isn’t it principled? Isn’t it safe? They’re not trying to silence all speech. They just don’t want to allow speech that calls for their extermination, dangerous speech.

Right?

No.

First, the argument relies on a false premise: that we don’t, or shouldn’t, extent rights to people who wouldn’t extend those rights to us. This is childish nonsense, and a common argument for tyranny. We criminal defense lawyers know it very well: why should this guy get a trial? He didn’t give his victim a trial. Why should she be shown any mercy? She didn’t show her victims mercy. Why does he get due process? He didn’t give his victims due process. The argument is particularly popular since 9/11. You hear it a lot whenever anyone suggests that maybe people accused of being terrorists — or of being someone who might plausibly grow up to be a terrorist, or might take up terrorism as soon as this wedding is over — perhaps should be treated as having some sort of right not to be killed or tortured or indefinitely detained. Nonsense, is the response. They wouldn’t give you any rights. The constitution isn’t a suicide pact! It’s also popular in matters of modern religious liberty. How can you argue that Muslims should have the freedom to worship here when Muslim countries deny Christians and Jews that right? In this manner, the student Left represented by the quotes below shares an ethos with the authoritarian and racist wings of the Right. A common taste for authoritarianism makes strange bedfellows.

Exceptions to declared rights are always a slippery slope. At first there are only a few put into place. But those few are used as justification for more. As time goes on more exceptions are added until everybody realizes that everything they want to say is pretty much illegal.

“But we can all agree that advocating Nazism is dangerous, right?” Sure. But so is advocating communism. Yet most of the people trying to establish a “Nazi Exception” would be opposed to a “Communist Exception” even though communists have killed even more people than nazis (but only because communism has lasted longer).

Another thing that is dangerous to advocate is democracy. Saying that pisses off a lot of people because they hold democracy up to be a perfect system of governance but let’s apply democracy to this problem. Let’s say the current party in power votes to establish a “Nazi Exception.” It gets passed and everybody cheers. Four years later an election leads to a change in power. The new power decides that there should also be a “Muslim Exception” and votes to pass it. Now the nation has the “Nazi Exception” that so many people wanted but it was used as justification by the new party in power to pass the “Muslim Exception” that they wanted. Democracy has just allowed a group that the “Nazi Exception” advocates hate to get their way. My point? What constitutes dangerous speech varies from person to person. You might believe that advocating Nazism is dangerous and I wouldn’t disagree with you. But you may flip your shit when I point out that democracy is dangerous. Where should the line be drawn?

As I’ve said before, if you hand power to the State you have to accept that that power may be wielded by people you hate. Handing that power over when the party you support is in power sounds like a jolly good idea. But the party you hate may only be a single election away from obtaining power and then it will inherit that power. After that your “Nazi Exception” may become a “Muslim Exception.”

Written by Christopher Burg

April 20th, 2017 at 11:00 am

You’re Property

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Tax seasons has once again come and gone. Now that everybody has filed their papers that will hopefully appease the State enough that it won’t send men with guns to your doorstep, I think it’s time to reflect on just what the income tax means. Simply put, the existence of the income tax means that you’re property:

The great essayist Frank Chodorov once described the income tax as the root of all evil. His target was not the tax itself, but the principle behind it. Since its implementation in 1913, he wrote, “The government says to the citizen: ‘Your earnings are not exclusively your own; we have a claim on them, and our claim precedes yours; we will allow you to keep some of it, because we recognize your need, not your right; but whatever we grant you for yourself is for us to decide.”

The income tax, like so many other government evils, seemed innocent enough when it was first proposed. It wasn’t going to be used to soak the poor or middle class. Heck, it wasn’t even going to be used to soak the wealthy. It was only going to be used to take an infinitesimal percentage of the income of the wealthiest Americans. Fast forward 104 years and we’re all being soaked.

Precedence is something I like to point out periodically. The government likes to grant itself seemingly innocent powers. Often these grants of power are even celebrated by the masses. But as time goes on the seemingly innocent grants of power are used as justification for overtly sinister grants of power. The income tax is the perfect example. Although it started as a tax that only targeted the rich, it established the precedence that the State has first claim to income. That precedence was used to expand the income tax until it applied to everybody’s income. Now even the poor get a percentage of their income skimmed off of the top by Uncle Sam.

The income tax may have been one of the most egregious grants of power because it established the precedence that individuals, not just the products they make or trade, are government property.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 20th, 2017 at 10:30 am

How to Save Yourself $400

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How do you take a boring old consumer appliance like a juicer and spice it up? By putting a chip in it, of course! That is the philosophy behind most Internet of Things (IoT) products. But before you can toss a chip in you need to give the consumers a reason why having a chip in their appliance will literally revolutionize their Web 3.0 existences.

Juicero was yet another bad idea made possible by Silicon Valley venture capital. The idea was to take a regular juicer, make it not be a juicer, add Wi-Fi, and charge an arm and a leg for proprietary juice bags. Basically, it’s a juicer that doesn’t actually juice but includes a chip for Wi-Fi and DRM. But wait, there’s more! Not only does the product include a bunch of stupid features but it also costs an arm and a leg! However, some clever super elite hacker has already found a way to bypass the need for Juicero’s expensive appliance:

Doug Evans, the company’s founder, would compare himself with Steve Jobs in his pursuit of juicing perfection. He declared that his juice press wields four tons of force—“enough to lift two Teslas,” he said. Google’s venture capital arm and other backers poured about $120 million into the startup. Juicero sells the machine for $400, plus the cost of individual juice packs delivered weekly. Tech blogs have dubbed it a “Keurig for juice.”

But after the product hit the market, some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands.

Apparently the “Steve Jobs of juicing perfection” didn’t have the resources to hire somebody who could foresee consumers just squeezing the proprietary juice bags. While there are a lot of valid criticisms against Steve Jobs, it’s difficult to deny that he had a knack for hiring talented people. Doug Evens, on the other hand, apparently lacks that knack. But he did managed to sucker $120 million out of backers so his ability to make money is certainly there.

Adding Internet connectivity makes sense for a lot of products but many IoT companies don’t seem to be asking why it makes sense to add connectivity to their products. Instead, they seem to be adding connectivity to regular products for marketing reasons (it’s not just a juicier, it’s a smart juicer) so consumers will buy them in spite of the other limitations put into place to lock users into the manufacturer’s “platform.” Fortunately, clever people tend to find ways to bypass the platform lock-in and all of us can laugh at $120 million being flushed down the toilet.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 20th, 2017 at 10:00 am

A Government Made Up of Governments

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What’s worse than a government? A government that is made up exclusively of governments. A lot of criticisms have been made about the United Nations (UN) by both advocates of limited government (I realize the term is an oxymoron but bear with me) and anarchists. Statists have written off these criticisms as conspiracy theories but the crimes of the UN are becoming so grand in scale that they’re now impossible to sweep under the rug:

United Nations peacekeepers in Haiti sexually abused nine children over a period of three years, an Associated Press investigation has found. It’s the latest in a long series of sex abuse scandals to plague U.N. peacekeeping missions worldwide.

From 2004 to 2007, 134 peacekeepers from Sri Lanka operated a child sex ring, luring children on the poverty-stricken island with candy and bits of cash, according to the AP. After a U.N. report incriminated them, most were sent home, but none faced jail time.

One victim told U.N. investigators, “I did not even have breasts,” according to the AP. Over a period of three years, beginning when she was 12 years old, she was forced to have sex with over 50 peacekeepers, the AP said.

And people wonder why I fucking hate the UN.

Mind you, this type of behavior isn’t unusual for invading military forces. In fact, the UN is supposed to act as a check against national militaries performing crimes like this. But when you’re an unaccountable organization you tend to attract the most wretched people and eventually, no matter how good the people who started the organization were (in the case of the UN, not that good), your organization turns into a criminal gang.

Since the establishment of the Westphalian sovereignty, national governments have existed basically unchallenged by everything except other national government. The UN is made up primarily of some of the most powerful government, meaning it is also almost entirely unchallenged. So long as this state continues the crimes of national governments, at least the ones strong enough not to be preyed on by other national governments, and the UN will go almost entirely unchallenged. Fortunately, the Westphalian sovereignty is starting to wane. Nongovernmental organizations, private military companies, freedom fighters, terrorist organizations, multinational companies, and other groups are gaining power while national governments are losing it. There may come a time once again where national governments can be held accountable by other organizations and shit like this UN child sex rings can finally be dealt with swiftly and harshly.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 19th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Revolution on the Horizon in Venezuela

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The people of Venezuela are starving, the nation’s currency is in free fall, and the government is arresting anybody who expresses displeasure with the situation on charges of sabotage. In other words, Venezuela is experiencing late stage socialism. As with most failing socialist (a redundant term, I know) governments, the government of Venezuela is trying to maintain its grip through terror. But terror only works when people have something to lose. When faced with the prospects of complying and starving to death or fighting and possibly surviving, people will often choose the latter.

Maduro, Venezuela’s dictator, is seeing the writing on the wall. The people are angry with him and his policies and look to be gearing up for a revolution. In response, he has begun arming his loyalists:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he will expand the number of civilians involved in armed militias, providing guns to as many as 400,000 loyalists.

The announcement came as Maduro’s opponents are gearing up for what they pledge will be the largest rally yet to press for elections and a host of other demands Wednesday.

History shows that late stage socialism has two possible outcomes. The first is that somebody like Gorbachev obtains power and implements policies that allow a peaceful transition away from socialism. Maduro doesn’t appear to be a Gorvachev so Venezuela will likely experience the second possible outcome, civil war. I hope that Maduro sees the hopelessness of his situation and abdicates power but I’m guessing this mess will only end with blood.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 19th, 2017 at 10:30 am

A Rose by Any Other Name

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A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Likewise, socialism by any other name would smell just as awful.

The United States is in the midsts of a small cultural skirmish. International socialists, often going by the moniker “antifascists,” are locking horns with national socialists, who are going by the moniker “alt-right.” These fights have been mostly silly to outside observers since they more resemble skits from The Three Stooges than Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts. Both sides seem to believe that they’re the exact opposite of each other but in reality they’re mirror images of one another:

People often argue over whether Hitler and Mussolini were “right wing” or “left wing.” More to the point is that both men’s ideologies had roots in the Progressive movement of the turn of the 20th century.

The Progressive movement was closely tied to the philosophy of Pragmatism: the belief that thought is a tool for action and change. In contrast to the ancient and medieval philosophers, for whom philosophy was the contemplation of reality, the Progressives were animated by the desire to mold reality and to harness knowledge for social betterment. Many in the vanguard of progressive thought initially were enamored of Mussolini and even Hitler, considering their dictatorships a useful “social experiment.”

[…]

Complete state control of all aspects of life was seen as highly pragmatic and scientific by many. Nationalism and militarism – elements commonly associated with the Right – were actually key components of the Progressive Era, flourishing in particular under President Woodrow Wilson, as Goldberg documents.

I’m not an “ends justify the means” kind of guy specifically because following that philosophy leads to national or international socialism, which both lead to democide.

I have friends who have cheered and antifascist punching a fascist and other friends who have cheered a fascist punching an antifascist. These friends of mine have been sucked into a trap where they believe each side’s rhetoric about being the opposite of the other side. Personally, I like the idea of locking these two groups into an arena, throwing a few swords into the mix, and letting them fulfill their goal of wiping the other group out. But I digress.

The fight between national and international socialists is no different than the fight between statist libertarians and anarcho-capitalists, with the exception being that the latter hasn’t turned into a Three Stooges skit yet. It’s not a fight between two opposing groups but infighting amongst two factions of the same group that have very minor disagreements.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 19th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Tax Day

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Just a reminder, today is the last day for you to submit your voluntary war effort contribution without having to worry about men with guns kicking down your door and kidnapping you.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 18th, 2017 at 11:30 am