Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Category
Instead of “”In God We Trust” the motto of the United States of America should be “Give Me Your Goddamn Money”. Judging by my Catholic upbringing, there isn’t a lot of godliness in the United States but every level of government demands that you pay a tithe. Unlike most religions though, the State will punish you severely for failing to pay your tithe. But just because the State has a gun to your head doesn’t mean you can’t be a little creative:
A US businessman in dispute with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has paid his $3,000 tax bill using five wheelbarrows containing 300,000 coins.
Nick Stafford from Cedar Buff, Virginia, delivered so many coins that the DMV’s automated counting machines could not cope with the volume.
His delivery stunt follows a legal row he had with the DMV over contacting its staff to make tax inquiries.
It took staff at least seven hours to count the coins, working until late.
Nick Stafford is a real American hero. He managed to make his $3,000 tithe a bigger pain in the ass to the State than it was probably worth. At the bare minimum he tied up several of the Department of Motor Vehicle’s (DMV) goons while they hand to manually count the 300,000 coins. And the pain wouldn’t have stopped there. The money had to be stored until it could be transferred to the State’s coffers. Transferring the coins, which weighed 1,600 pounds according to the article, would require more gas than paper bills or a check. Some poor sucker at the State’s bank might even been required to recount the money.
I’m sure this stunt will cause whatever level of government Mr. Stafford was dealing with to change the rules so that tithe payments can’t be made with coins. But he managed to throw a wrench in the State’s machinery and cause a bit of havoc, which is what matters. If everybody did the same the State would end up choking on its own bureaucracy.
Libertarians, especially new ones, often believe that they care about the important issues while everybody else is wasting time on meaningless issues. Important issues include the economic damage done by the Federal Reserve, the iron grip the Republican and Democratic parties have on American politics, the seemingly endless state of unprovoked warfare, and whether or not colleges establish safe spaces for students. Wait, what was that last one?
It’s true. A lot of libertarians have fallen into the trap of what is commonly referred to as the culture wars. I call it a trap because it gets in the way of the struggle for freedom:
Too many liberty advocates are aiming for the easy targets of “political correctness” while taking their sights off of the true enemy of liberty: those with actual political power. This trend has been accelerating for years, probably because culture wars are fun, generate attention and engagement, and have soft and vulnerable targets. By comparison, the real problem of State power – imposed on the whole of society, not just paying students – is much more difficult.
The article ends up falling apart towards the end because it talks about teaming up with potential political allies, of which libertarians have effectively zero (since libertarianism is the antithesis of politics). But the article makes a good point about not falling into culture war traps such as college campus policies and blaming immigrants.
I give new libertarians a lot of leeway because they’re still finding their way. Libertarianism is a deceptively complicated philosophy. On the one hand it has a single rule: don’t initiate aggression. On the other hand that single rule can change everything when you live in a society that is built on initiated aggression. Leonard E. Reed wrote an excellent book titled Elements of Libertarian Leadership. The title describes the content perfectly. But to provide a summary, one of the most important elements of libertarian leadership is living a life that is consistent with libertarianism. Accomplishing that isn’t simple and it requires a great deal of introspection. That introspection takes time. New libertarians haven’t had that time and therefore periodically lose their way (I speak from experience as I too was once new libertarian). But those of us who have been steeping in libertarian philosophy for years should know better.
Us libertarian old hats should be striving every day to live our life consistently with our beliefs. How does one live a life that is consistent with the libertarian principle against initiating aggression? One of the biggest things we can do is divorce ourselves from the State as much as possible. A good example of this in regards to education are homeschoolers and unschoolers. They have taken it upon themselves to divorce themselves and their children from the State’s indoctrination centers. Do the policies of the State’s indoctrination centers matter to somebody who doesn’t go to one? No. As libertarians we shouldn’t get caught up in the policies of government indoctrination centers but should instead be working to divorce ourselves from them as much as possible. People will often cite the fact that many jobs require degrees from government indoctrination centers. To them I ask why the requirements of a company are relevant to an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is yet another tool that can be used to divorce yourself from the State.
Divorcing yourself from the State’s indoctrination system is just one step on a long and difficult journey. Even us older libertarians are still finding our way. Just because we’ve traveled the path longer than the new libertarians doesn’t mean our journey is over. Continuing to travel the path requires us to constantly analyze our lives to see what parts of it are inconsistent with libertarianism and then change those parts. Bitching about the policies of the government’s indoctrination centers won’t accomplish that. Neither will making a litany of excuses to justify said bitching.
What is the most effective method of spreading the ideas of freedom? Many ideas have been put forward but few have met with much success. I won’t go so far as to claim that I know the answer but I will submit an idea for consideration. Before I being I wholly admit that this idea isn’t entirely fleshed out in this blog post. There’s a lot to it and I’ve only been considering it in depth in the last few months. Nevertheless, it’s always good to get public input on an idea earlier rather than later. Therefore, this is as much a request for comment as it is a proposal.
The primary tool of libertarians has been logical deduction (I know a bunch of statists are laughing about this but in this case logical is in the eyes of libertarians, not you guys). Libertarians, myself included, have tried to point out the bloody history of statism, economic consequences of central banking, terrible toll of the drug wars, and other pitfalls of centralized power. What has this gotten us? Jack shit.
I would submit that logical deduction doesn’t work, at least not initially, to spread the message of freedom. Why? Since I cannot read another person’s mind I cannot provide a definitive answer. However, I can offer speculation based on experience and observation. In my experience, the biggest thing statism has going for it is that it preys on fear. Fear is a powerful tool. If you can wield it successfully you can influence people’s actions.
Therefore, I would submit that the first step in spreading the message of freedom is helping people overcome their fears. The first step in accomplish this, in my experience, is cultivating the ego.
If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which I feel is a good general model to work from (note, I said general model, not a perfectly accurate account of human behavior), there are a lot of requirements before one can begin to address self-actualization. In fact, if you look at the lower layers you’ll notice that they’re all things that statist try to drum up fear of. Access to food, water, and shelter are all necessary for survival and, coincidentally, are all things that statists claim the State is necessary for. They tell us that the State distributes food in times of shortage so that everybody has enough, ensures we have clean drinking water, and provides shelter for the homeless. None of these things are actually true but they don’t need to be. The only thing that’s necessary is tying people’s fear of not being able to meet their physiological needs with the idea that the State can guarantee plenty.
Safety, the next layer of the hierarchy, is another prime example. How many times have you heard a statist claim that without the State the strong would prey upon the weak and that the person with the most guns would rule the roost? Again, if we look at the history of stateless societies, of which there is much since the Westphalian supremacy that we understand to be statism is a fairly new concept in human history, we see that this isn’t the case. In fact, even a bad analysis of statism would lead one to realize that the State is the person with the most guns ruling the roost. But statists have convinced a great many people that their safety is provided by the State.
Where does the ego come into play here? I’m glad you asked! People with big egos, such as yours truly, are confident in themselves (or people who are confident in themselves have big egos, either way works). I know that I can provide for my own needs. I can provide my own food, water, shelter, and personal protection even in emergency situations. I’m not in a state of constant worry for my lower order needs, which means I can address my higher order need of self-actualization.
I believe that is the trick. We must first help people overcome their fears before they’ll become open to the message of freedom. In order to do that we must teach people to be confident in their own abilities. This doesn’t necessarily mean teaching them how to store food for long periods of time, use a firearm defensively, or survive in the wilderness for weeks on end. Accomplishing anything can boost a person’s ego, which in turn can increase their self-confidence.
I’ve explored this idea through practice. Namely, when people have asked me for advice I have given advice that I felt would be most empowering to them. I’ve been encouraging friends to seek new jobs when they’ve expressed dissatisfaction with their current job. That encouragement included both helping them understand that they were more skilled than they believed (and therefore qualified for a better job) and that life is too short to spend 40 or more hours per week at a place they hated. When my friends have followed my advice the results have been great. Not only did they end up making more money and being happier overall but they also became more confident in themselves and through that confidence seemingly less fearful of uncertainties.
In addition to provide empowering advice I’ve also been encouraging people to develop new skills. I’ve started and am currently still running a workout group (to admittedly minor success but I’ve encouraged at least two individuals to take better care of themselves and it has boosted their egos just as working out has boosted my ego) and have been encouraging people to learn another language as I continue my language studies. While working out and languages may not seem useful in regards to spreading the message of liberty they do require individuals to pursue and attain goals, which gives a huge confidence boost when accomplished. The few who have pursued these goals have come out being more confident in themselves and less susceptible to fear based manipulation.
In my experience my friends who have bolstered their egos didn’t need to hear the message of freedom, they started developing an understanding of freedom themselves. There was less talk about somebody needing to do something and far more talk about their capacity for accomplishing things. Although it may seem minor on the surface it seems to have gotten their brains working in a more independent fashion, which is really what freedom is all about.
So my proposal is this: if you wish to spread the message of freedom start by encouraging your friends to improve their self-confidence and ego. If you have a skill that a friend expresses interest in then teach it to them or at least act as a guide. Pick up a new goal based hobby with some of your friends to encourage them to pursue and attain goals. Encourage your friends to pursue any goals they’ve expressed interest in. As their skills improve and their confidence increases you may find that their susceptibility to fear based manipulation decreases. If that doesn’t seem to be the case then let me know so I can establish some kind of trend and decide whether my proposal is misguided or not.
I’m sure all of you have heard the phrase divide and conquer. It’s basic wisdom. If you can divide a large united force into multiple smaller groups (preferably groups at odds with each other) it’s easier to conquer each of them one at a time. I feel as though there needs to be an addendum that says unite and rule.
Several of my friends have been circulating this piece by The Daily Show host Trevor Noah. It’s titled Let’s Not Be Divided. Divided People Are Easier to Rule. As the title promises, Mr. Noah tries to make an argument that we must all unite because united people are harder to rule.
I have to call bullshit on that. While divide people may be easier to conquer initially they tend to be harder to rule. Why? Because you have to appeal to each group in order to successfully rule them. But anybody who manages to appeal to one group is likely to put themselves at odds that group’s enemies. When you’re dealing with a united people then you just have one group to please, which generally means you only need to appeal to whatever tribe identity they share.
This is why rulers work so hard to instill nationalism into their people. We see this every day here in the United States. If you can trigger the part of Americans’ monkey brains that deals with their identity as Americans you can get them to roll over for almost anything. Do you want to invade Iraq? Do you have no pretense for doing so? No problem, just convince the people that Iraq is somehow a threat to the United States. Do you want to pass draconian surveillance powers? No problem, just convince the people that those powers will protect the people of the United States. And less somebody think this is unique to the United States, it’s not. It’s a common tactic used throughout history by rulers. Britain, for example, has probably played the nationalism game even better than the United States currently is.
Instilling strong individualism and a small group mentality into people will make them much harder to rule than instilling collectivism and a large group mentality.
Robert Higgs is one of my favorite anarchist philosophers. He has a knack for pointing out the bloody obvious that many people fail to see. In October he wrote a short post pointing out that nobody who is required to pay taxes is truly free:
In the antebellum South, it was not uncommon for slaves to rent themselves from their masters. As a young man, Frederick Douglass did so, for example. His owner gave him leave to go out on his own, to find employment where he could, and to pocket the pay he received for such work, except that each month he had to pay his master a fixed sum for his freedom. Douglass worked in the shipyards of Baltimore, caulking ships. Aside from his rental payment for his own body, he lived as he wished, subject to his income constraint. He found his own housing, acquired his own food and clothing, and so forth, just as a free wage worker would have done.
It strikes me that this practice has much in common with the situation in which an ordinary private person finds himself in any modern country today. The person is in general at liberty to arrange his own employment, spend his earnings as he pleases, acquire his own food and housing, and so on, except that he must pay a rental for this personal liberty, which takes the form of a portion of his earnings that must be paid to the various governments that collect income and employment taxes in the jurisdiction.
People believe that feudalism and slavery are, for the most part, a thing of the past. We’re living under both of those systems but under different names. Instead of being serfs we’re called citizens. Instead of barons, lords, and other royal titles we have sheriff’s, city councils, and other bureaucratic titles. Much like the slaves of the South, we must rent our freedom. We can’t own land, we can only rent it. If we fail to pay our rent on either our freedom or our land one of the royal slave catchers will find us and kidnap us so that a royal judge can decide how best to punish us.
The United States isn’t the freest country on Earth. In fact, it’s one of the more draconian countries because it not only has ridiculous high rents but also because those rents are enforced by a ruthlessly efficient government.
One of the most amazing things to happen because of this election is the significant shift in paradigm. Suddenly a great many of the people who were once advocates of big government are seeing the dangers of a big government. Many of the people who were against guns now want to purchase a gun and learn how to use it (I’ve even had a few formerly anti-gun friends contact me for lessons, which I’m happily willing to provide). And many of the people who were angry at Texans who wanted to secede are now advocating for California to secede.
Personally, I’m pleased as can be with this paradigm shift. I’ve often said that if a state ever became serious about secession I’d probably move there to help. California is an exception to that though. California represents everything I hate about government, which is also why I still fully support its secession even if I’m not willing to help directly.
Perhaps some good will come of this election. If Trump’s opposition suddenly find wisdom in learning both online and offline self-defense, opposing government power grabs, and supporting secession the entire nation could become a better place.
A lot of people are getting an education in the electoral college. Even though Clinton won the popular vote by a razor thin margin Trump won the presidency.
Except Hillary didn’t win the popular vote:
- 46.6% didn’t vote
- 25.6% voted for Hillary Clinton
- 25.5% voted for Donald Trump
- 1.7% voted for Gary Johnson
Clinton and Trump both received about a quarter of the potential votes. The plurality of voters, by a significant margin at 46.6 percent, appear to have wanted no master. This is one of the biggest shams of democracy. Democracy is seldom the “will of the people.” It’s the will of the people who decided to select a preference from a curated list of approved options.
Depending on the circles you hang out in this may be a common scene for you. Last night I witnessed a not uncommon sight in libertarian circles. A group of libertarians were arguing (surprising, I know) about whether income, property, or sales taxes were more moral. The income tax seemed to fall fairly quickly as it was almost universally perceived as a punishment for doing well but the sales and property taxes held on for quite some time.
As I watched this circus unfold I started to think that they were basically arguing about which weapon was more moral for an armed robber to use. Is an armed robbery more moral when the mugger is armed with a gun rather than a knife? Are they more moral if they merely make you think they have a gun by sticking their hand in their pocket in an attempt to make it appear as a gun?
Personally, I can’t think of a weapon that would make an armed robber more moral nor can I think of a tax that would make government expropriation more moral.
I’ve started reading Robert Anton Wilson’s Prometheus Rising. It’s a book about consciousness and while I’m only a couple of chapters in I’m already finding great material. One of the early things Wilson mentions is Orr’s Law. Orr’s Law states that what the thinker thinks, the prover will prove. It’s based on the premise that there are thinkers and provers. When a thinker comes up with an idea the prover will perform the most elaborate mental gymnastics to prove it:
As psychiatrists and psychologists have often observed (much to the chagrin of their medical colleagues), the Thinker can think itself sick, and can even think itself well again. The Prover is a much simpler mechanism. It operates on one law only: Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves. To cite a notorious example which unleashed incredible horrors earlier in this century, if the Thinker thinks that all Jews are rich, the Prover will prove it. It will find evidence that the poorest Jew in the most run-down ghetto has hidden money somewhere. Similarly, Feminists are able to believe that all men, including the starving wretches who live and sleep on the streets, are exploiting all women, including the Queen of England.
If the Thinker thinks that the sun moves around the earth, the Prover will obligingly organize all perceptions to fit that thought; if the Thinker changes its mind and decides the earth moves around the sun, the Prover will reorganize the evidence. If the Thinker thinks ‘holy water’ from Lourdes will cure its lumbago, the Prover will skillfully orchestrate all signals from the glands, muscles, organs etc. until they have organized themselves into good health again. Of course, it is fairly easy to see that other people’s minds operate this way; it is comparatively much harder to become aware that one’s own mind is working that way also.
It’s not hard to find examples of this. One example that I’ve been using as of late to illustrate this point (unknowingly, mind you) is the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Has the legislation been successful?
It depends on what the thinkers think. Thinkers in support of the legislation will, of course, declare it a success. Their provers will then find criteria that can be used to prove their thinkers right. For example, they’ll point out that the number of people who now have health insurance coverage has increased and therefore the ACA is a rousing success. Why is the number of people who have coverage a good metric to decide whether the legislation was successful? Because it proves the thinkers right.
Thinkers who oppose the legislation will, of course, declare it a failure. Their provers will then find criteria that can be used to prove their thinkers right. For example, they’ll point out that the number of health insurance companies providing their services through ACA exchanges has decreased and therefore the ACA is an utter failure. Why is the number of insurance companies providing their service through ACA exchanges a good metric to decide whether the legislation was a failure? Because it proves the thinkers right.
I like to play with Orr’s Law (a concept for which I didn’t even realize had a name) by periodically arguing both sides of a debate. And I’m always successful.
This is one of the reasons I have no faith in politics. When somebody in power issues a decree they’re using the force of the State to inflict their personal bias on a population. They will argue that it’s for the greater good and a lot of provers will prove that it’s for the greater good. But their opponents will then argue that it’s not for the greater good and a lot of provers will prove that it’s not for the greater good. To throw in a bit of Ludwig von Mises, “If a man drinks wine and not water I cannot say he is acting irrationally. At most i can say that in his place I would not do so. But his pursuit of happiness is his own business, not mine.” In other words we each have the unique knowledge of our own life experiences and therefore are more qualified to know what is best for us than anybody else.
Through the performance of mental gymnastics we can prove anything. That being the case, I believe it makes more sense to localize potential damage by limiting the scope of any single individual’s power to themselves (with the understanding that somebody can prove the opposite as being true).
What term should be used to describe people who cross the imaginary line that separates the United States of American from the rest of the world without first receiving permission from the State? Some refer to them as illegal immigrants. Others refer to them as undocumented workers. Truthfully, both of these labels are stupid. Somebody crossing an imaginary line isn’t doing anything illegal because the entity that has decreed itself the owner of the entire country isn’t a legitimate entity. Likewise, calling them undocumented words is dumb because human beings shouldn’t have to be documented:
It is the promotion of the term “undocumented” term that concerns me. Just as no human is illegal, I see no reason why we should promote the idea that humans should be documented. To me being “documented” conjures up the image of a dystopian future where we are branded with identification numbers that are needed for every little transaction. Indeed, I consider the term undocumented to be worse than illegal since it implies that all individuals, including natural born citizens, should be documented in this manner. At minimum the term implicitly justifies a program like e-verify, a de facto form of national ID in the United States, which makes one’s right to work dependent on government approval.
The idea that human being should be documented by the State can best be summed up, in a German accent, by the phrase, “Papers please.” We’ve seen what happens when the State maintains documentation on people. When it decides to target a subset of those people the State has all the information it needs to do so. The Nazis used its documentation to target Jews. The Soviet Union used its documentation to target counterrevolutions. Here in the United States the government routinely uses its documentation to target those with even the most benign criminal record.
Few things are more dangerous than documentation on people in the hands of the State. The idea that people should be documented by the State should go the way of the dodo.