Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Category
A common objection made by statists about anarchy is that the anarchists would quickly be conquered by a neighboring state. Apparently the only way to defend ourselves from criminal gangs is to have a criminal gang of our own. Except, as Robert Higgs points out, such objections are based on two flawed presumptions:
This thinking presumes at least two critical ideas: first, that defense of a population requires a government that rules that population; and, second, that if a government has the power to take over another country, it will do so.
As for the first assumption, it seems clear that a national government may prove an ineffective means of defense in any event, as many governments have demonstrated through the ages. Moreover, it is certainly conceivable that decentralized measures of defense, such as pervasive guerrilla groups operating more or less independently, might prove effective in preventing a foreign takeover.
As for the second assumption, the persistence of many small countries with weak governments, even in today’s world, certainly calls into question the idea that effectively defenseless countries cannot persist. Surely Brazil has the means to conquer Uruguay, but it does not do so. Surely Germany or France has the means to conquer Belgium, but neither does so. And so forth in regard to many other countries. Governments have various good reasons for refraining from such possible conquests.
The apocalyptic scenario predicted by statists should be playing out today since there are many states easily able to conquer their neighbors. Unless, of course, the statists are claiming that colored pieces of cloth hanging from poles have some kind of magical power to repel invaders. But even if that’s the case, each anarchist in an stateless society could fly their own piece of colored cloth to keep neighboring states off of their property.
The threat of military invasion as a justification for having a state may be one of the flimsiest arguments against anarchism. We have very good examples of a militarily inferior force holding a military superior force at bay in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries in the Middle East and Africa. Hell, the North Vietnamese showed the United States how successful guerrilla warfare is against a militarily superior force. Lacking a formal military doesn’t make a particular chunk of dirt more vulnerable to invasion. If anything, it makes that chunk of dirt more dangerous because there’s no centralized force to take out to break the inhabitant’s will to continue fighting.
Last week it was revealed that Uber developed a self-defense strategy against the State. Needless to say, this upset a lot of statists who were posting the #DeleteUber hashtag even harder than they were before. But those of us who don’t subscribe to the insanity that is statism can learn a lot from Uber’s example:
“SAN FRANCISCO — Uber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was being resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been outright banned.
The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities such as Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.
Uber’s use of Greyball was recorded on video in late 2014, when Erich England, a code enforcement inspector in Portland, Ore., tried to hail an Uber car downtown as part of a sting operation against the company.
But unknown to Mr. England and other authorities, some of the digital cars they saw in the app did not represent actual vehicles. And the Uber drivers they were able to hail also quickly canceled. That was because Uber had tagged Mr. England and his colleagues — essentially Greyballing them as city officials — based on data collected from the app and in other ways. The company then served up a fake version of the app populated with ghost cars, to evade capture.”
How brilliant is that? The company identified a significant threat, government goons who were working to extort the company, and then screwed with them, which made their job of extortion more difficult.
This is a strategy more companies need to adopt. Imagine a world where services such as Facebook, Gmail, Google Maps, iCloud, SoundCloud, and other online services identified government goons and refused to work for them. It would be a tremendous strike against the quality of life of many government employees. In fact, the hit might be powerful enough to convince them to seek productive employment.
Companies like Facebook and Google have built their fortunes on surveilling customers. Why not use that massive store of data for good by identifying government employees, or at least the regulators that make their lives difficult, and either screw with them or outright refusing to do business with them? There’s no reason anybody should be expected to do business with extortionists.
The aftermath of this election is the gift that keeps on giving. After eight years of loving Big Brother and mocking anti-state ideas, neoliberals are suddenly espousing anti-state ideas. The appointment of Betsy DeVos has a lot of neoliberals upset because they think she is going to destroy the public education system (I wish that were true but it’s not). Some of them are so upset that they’re considering a formerly crazy libertarian idea:
In protest of school choice advocate Betsy DeVos becoming the next education secretary, some liberals threatened to homeschool their children. Lost on them, apparently, is the irony of that threat.
As I mentioned, the Education Secretary doesn’t matter if you don’t put your children into a government indoctrination center. Apparently this point has sunk in with a few neoliberals.
Granted, I know these people will have a change of heart when their team is in power again but it’s nice to see that for at least four years some neoliberals will be open to a few libertarian ideas. Perhaps one or two of them will take the ideas to heart and permanently overcome their statist tendencies.
Without government who will build the schools? It’s a stupid question since nongovernment schools have existed for ages but it’s a question statists love to ask. They seem to think that single question justifies the existence of the State. So I’m going to answer it. People who are sick of the poor quality of education will build the schools:
A libertarian businessman based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Luddy made his fortune as the owner of the nation’s leading manufacturer of commercial kitchen ventilation systems. CaptiveAire has factories in six states, and its 2016 revenues were $400 million. But what does fabricating stove hoods and building HVAC systems have in common with turning out successful students? More than you might think.
In 2007, he decided to take a more radical step by creating a non-profit network of schools called Thales Academy. Influenced by economist Albert Hirschman’s classic 1970 treatise on political science, Exit, Voice and Loyalty, Luddy conceived of Thales as a way to give families “exit.”
“‘Voice’ is [when] you go to vote [or you] express an opinion…Exit…is like Uber…where someone comes up with an entirely new idea, they bypass the existing industry, and they get amazing results.”
The first thing statists are likely to complain about is that Thales Academy charges tuition. Supposedly schools that charge tuition put education out of reach of poorer families. But as anybody who has been to a school in a poorer neighborhood knows, even though every family is forced to pay tuition for the school (although they use the euphemism of taxes) the quality of education is usually subpar (and that’s being extremely generous). In other words, the complaint is equally applicable to both private and public schools.
What should be considered is that even though public schools they are so bad at providing an education that Mr. Luddy still decided to invest a portion of his wealth to build an alternative education system. That right there speaks volumes about the quality of government schools.
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.