Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Category
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.
The Republicans are selling a world where tall concrete walls topped with barbed wire surround the good God fearing white people of American so they can have sex in the missionary position without worrying about getting their throats slit by the evil barbarians they’re bombing killing.
The Democrats are selling a world where the disarmed populace is entirely at the mercy of the lawless but remain safe from unapproved, dangerous speech and any potential transgression against Mother Gaia, real or imaginary, is punished via summary execution.
The libertarians are selling a world where everybody has the right to snort cocaine off of a hooker’s ass in the middle of a private road while both individuals are wearing nothing but gun belts with automatic Glock pistols in their holsters.
How the fuck are libertarians the ones having a hard time selling people on their ideas?
Elizabeth Nolan Brown, one of the few remaining writers at Reason worth reading, wrote an article discussing a particular pebble that has been in my shoe as of late — cultural libertarianism:
Today’s “cultural libertarians” claim to be concerned, first and foremost, with free speech and fending off the “illiberal” or “regressive left.” Where they succeed, from a libertarian-no-qualifier perspective, is in igniting the passions of young people toward the protection of civil liberties. Where they fail is by turning off more people in the process than they win over, delighting in the kinds of tactics and stunts that provoke but little else. Going to a feminist rally and holding up signs saying “there is no rape culture” may seem edgy when you’re 20, but most people realize that intruding on private events just to throw shade simply makes you an asshole, not a radical for free expression.
That paragraph sums up my feels quite concisely. While libertarianism certainly allows for individuals to make complete asses of themselves and I would never use coercive force to stop somebody from making an ass of themselves, I do get tired of these libertarians who seem hellbent on making asses of themselves.
Whenever a feminist, social justice advocate, or any other person these libertarian reactionaries have deemed leftists make a statement they are quick to respond. And by respond I mean with as offensive of statements as possible, not anything that would lead to constructive conversation. In addition to make these reactionaries look like asses their behavior is also counterproductive. There is a lot of common ground between libertarianism and feminism, social justice advocacy, and other so-called leftist philosophies.
Consider racism. If you try to discuss the issue of racism you’ll inevitably have one of these reactionaries calling you a social justice warrior and saying various racial slurs over and over in a pathetic attempt to be edgier than my Benchmade. But the fact of the matter is, many laws in the United States do institutionalize racism even though they claim to be neutral on the matter of race. This is a topic libertarians and advocates of social justice could work together against the State.
An important question to ask yourself, if you’re a libertarian, is whether you actually want to move society towards libertarianism. If you do then being edgy isn’t going to cut it (I’m not apologizing for that pun, it’s a damn good pun). The only way we’ll move society towards libertarianism is by making libertarianism appealing (it’s that damn market rearing its head again). This is where socialists tend to succeed over libertarians. A socialist can tell somebody facing oppression that their oppression will be a thing of the past because the socialist government will come down on their oppressors like a bag of hammers… and sickles (seriously, these are good puns, don’t try to tell me otherwise). Libertarians needs to explain how the State, by legislating oppression, is the biggest enabler of oppression. That requires actually listening to people’s stories and working with them to figure out a way libertarian principles can solve or at least reduce their problems.
I, like many libertarians, am a contrarian by nature so I understand that telling a group of feminists discussing rape culture that rape culture isn’t a real thing can sound amusing. But it’s also counterproductive (and a really shitty thing to do). What is far more productive, and I know this because it’s what I’ve done, is to listen to them and try to work with them to achieve mutual goals (which is why I invest so much time in advocating self-defense, because rape is a real problem and everybody should be able to defend themselves against rapists).
Politics is a necessarily collectivist activity. This is why I find the Libertarian Party amusing. Admittedly, of all the political parties out there — with the exception of the Guns and Dope Party — I hate the Libertarian Party the least. But the fact that it must constantly be at odds with itself makes for some top tier comedy.
I was at the Minnesota Libertarian Party Convention this weekend, helping run the Agorist Suite (I wasn’t part of the convention itself outside of giving a security talk), and the topic of John McAfee stating he would not vote for Gary Johnson came up a few times. What I found most interesting is that a lot of libertarians were very upside by McAfee’s statement. Apparently the most important aspect of being a Libertarian Party candidate is loyalty to the party.
These are the kinds of collectivist traps one finds themselves in when claiming to be an individualist but participating in the political process. McAfee’s personal choice to not support Gary Johnson shouldn’t be an issue. He shouldn’t be expected to provide active support to a party that nominates a candidate he doesn’t approve of. Yet his announcement is being treated like high treason by some. Many have even said his statement has convinced them not to support him any longer.
One of the reasons I don’t involve myself in the political process is because I’m not willing to set aside my individualist principles. If somebody says they won’t support a party because of personal objections I’m not willing to harangue them over it. In fact such an action would demonstrate to me that the person is more of an individualist than the people criticizing them.
I can’t help but doubt the feasibility of any means the requires compromising expressed philosophical beliefs.