A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Category

Radical Individualism

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As I get older I identify myself more as a radical individualist. This is because all of the other terms that might describe my philosophy carry too much baggage. Anarchist is a vast term that can cover a spectrum so wide that is encompasses everything from anarcho-communism to anarcho-capitalism. Anarcho-capitalism has been so thoroughly infested with alt-right loonies that the term has become poison. Libertarianism can mean either minarchists or anarchists. Basically, whenever I look at the people who also fall under a particular label I’m reminded of a line from the leftist song The Ultimate Sectarian, “Yes, you may be a comrade to all of these folks, but you ain’t no Comrade of mine.”

Admittedly, the term radical individualist can also encompasses a lot of trash, such as objectivists, but it at least more narrowly defines my belief that the individual is all and clearly denotes my opposition of collectivism in any form.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 20th, 2017 at 11:00 am

What the NAP Is, What the NAP Isn’t

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The non-aggression principle (NAP) is a pretty straight forward ethical guideline that states that the initiation of force is unethical. It’s basically a rewording of the Golden Rule and forms the foundation of libertarianism. However, there seems to be some confusion regarding what the NAP is and isn’t. Most of this confusion originates from the “libertarian” nationalists who, for whatever reason, want to associate themselves with libertarianism but don’t want to actually abide by libertarian principles.

“Libertarian” nationalists have been saying that the NAP doesn’t apply to non-libertarians. If somebody, for example, espouses communist ideals then, according to these individuals, you can initiate as much aggression against them as possible. Leave it to nationalists to espouse collectivist ideals while simultaneously claiming that they oppose collectivism.

The NAP, like all ethical systems, applies only to the individuals practicing it. If you practice the NAP then it applies to you. If you don’t practice the NAP then it doesn’t apply to you. While there is some disagreement about what exactly constitutes aggression, in general libertarians tend to believe that if everybody abided by the NAP then the world would be a better place. To that end many libertarians have formed relationships with others who abide by the NAP. In such cases the NAP applies to each individual in those relationships because they all choose to abide by it.

In addition to being simple, the NAP is also philosophically neutral. Libertarians aren’t the only individuals who can abide by the NAP. Anybody who practices voluntary association can abide by the NAP. That means somebody who doesn’t believe in private property but believes in voluntary association, such as voluntary socialists, can abide by the NAP. If they do, then the NAP applies to them. If a libertarian chooses to aggress against them then it is the libertarian who the NAP cease to apply to since through their act of initiating aggression they demonstrated that they do not abide by it (moreover, the voluntary socialist being aggressed against is well within their rights under the NAP to defend themselves aggressively).

“Libertarian” nationalism is an oxymoronic philosophy because it claims to be both individualist and collectivist in nature. This nonsensical combination of philosophies leads its proponents to make rather absurd statements such as claiming that the NAP applies to collectives instead of individuals who choose practice it.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Saving the Internet

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I guess today is the annual Save the Internet celebration. What I mean by that is that a bunch of websites have gotten together in a bid to once again circlejerk about saving net neutrality. I call it a circlejerk because, like the last several years, this year the websites participating in this “action” are urging people to contract various government officials and beg them to enforce net neutrality. Of course, since this “action” has taken place so many times I have my doubts about the effectiveness of pleading with government officials.

Instead of urging you to waste your time by contacting people who don’t give a shit about you I’m going to offer an alternate idea. Unfortunately, I already know that this proposal will be unpopular because it requires people to take actual action. TANSTAAFL. If you want a neutral Internet you’re going to have to work for it.

Longtime readers probably already know what I’m going to propose because I’ve proposed it before. The only way to enjoy a neutral Internet is to own the infrastructure and enjoy the ability to run it however you goddamn please. So my proposal is to build out small interconnected mesh networks. Why mesh networks? First, they’re relatively cheap to build. You don’t have to bury a bunch of fiber optic cable or build expensive cellular towers. All you need is off-the-shelf hardware loaded with freely available firmware. Second, mesh nodes are controlled by the individuals who own them, not a single entity. This makes it difficult to enforce undesirable rules on the mesh network because there isn’t a single entity to buy off or coerce. Third, large scale mesh networks are a proven technology. Catalonia has one called Guifi.net, which has been operating and expanding since 2009.

Obviously this proposal will initially rely on the currently established Internet to interconnect geographically separated mesh networks. If this proposal took off though this condition would be temporary because eventually the meshes would grow numerous enough and large enough where they could be directly interconnected. Once that happens the need for the currently centralized Internet would cease along with the centralized control that is the root of the net neutrality problem.

If you really want to “save the Internet” don’t wasted your time by pleading with government officials, take some direct action and start learning about building your own infrastructure.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 12th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Libertarians Versus Pragmatists

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Since Trump received the Republican Party presidential nomination a lot of so-called libertarians started shifting away from libertarianism towards national socialism. When he won the election these many of these former libertarians turned into full on national socialists. Of course they don’t call themselves national socialists of fascists. They have a bunch of friendlier sounding terms such as alt-righters and pragmatists. But when you press them about their beliefs it’s almost impossible to distinguish them from national socialists.

Why did people who formerly identified as libertarians, or at least libertarian leaning, make a 180 degree turn? If you ask them what their pet issue is they almost always say that it’s fighting socialists at all costs. While I’m unclear as to how becoming socialists will defeat socialists I do know how these individuals descended into national socialism. They became obsessed with enemies instead of principles.

There is a schism between principled libertarians and pragmatists (who often call themselves pragmatic libertarians but, as I’ll show, aren’t libertarians in any meaningful way). Principled libertarians follow the strategy of leading by example. They believe that by acting on libertarian principles they can be an example of how practical those principles are and hopefully get other people to follow them. Pragmatists follow the strategy of using any means necessary to defeat socialists.

If the principled libertarians succeed they will have carved out a section of the planet where libertarian values are the norm. If the pragmatists succeed they will have replaced one set of socialist rulers with another set. Therein lies the fallacy of pragmatism. Following principles may not succeed but if it does succeed it results in the implementation of libertarianism. Being pragmatic may not succeed either but even if it does succeed it results in more of the status quo.

If an individual isn’t pursuing a strategy to expand libertarianism can they really be called libertarians? I don’t believe so. That is why I don’t believe pragmatic “libertarians” are libertarians. They’re simply individuals who are pursuing an enemy and don’t care about the outcome beyond removing that enemy from power. Libertarians, on the other hand, very much care about the outcome leading to a more libertarian world, which is why they pursue principles.

Written by Christopher Burg

July 11th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Borders

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Should the United States government open its border wider, close them tighter, or continue its current policies? You might be surprised that many anarchists have very strong opinions on the matter. This argument is especially decisive amongst libertarian anarchists. And that is the problem.

Anarchists debating what border policy a government should pursue is akin to Christians debating which of Satan’s proposals are better. In the end it doesn’t matter because Satan wins. Likewise, it doesn’t matter what border policies a government pursues because the State will win.

Instead of debating what the government should do, anarchists should be pointing out why the government shouldn’t be involved in borders or anything else.

Written by Christopher Burg

June 6th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Fighting Fascism

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A lot of people have expressed an interest in fighting fascism here in the United States. Most of the people expressing such interest like to start off a lot of their sentences with, “We must…” “We must stand together!” “We must shutdown fascist speakers!” “We must run fascists out of town!”

Fascism is only made possible through collectivism. Using words like “we must” is where the disease begins. By using the collective term “we” it establishes a group identity, which is the beginning of developing an “us” vs. “them” mentality. By using the word “must” it establishes a requirement one must meet in order to be a member of the speaker’s collective.

Fascists love starting sentences with “We must…” “We must secure the fatherland.” “We must eliminate the immigrants who are the source of our strife.” “We must give our loyalty to our nation first.” In the case of fascism, the “we” is generally citizens of a nation and the “them” is everybody else. The use of the word “must” indicates that being a member of the nation requires securing it from “them,” removing “them” from “us,” and ensuring people’s loyalty is with the nation before anybody else including family members.

By identifying themselves first and foremost with a group, individuals can begin to justify any action, no matter how atrocious, so long as it benefits the group. This is the most dangerous aspect of fascism and the people who claim to want to fight fascism seem determined to rely on it.

I have a proposal for fighting fascism. Instead of relying on the very collectivism that makes fascism possible, why not rely on radical individualism? Perhaps people would be less susceptible to collectivism philosophies like fascism if they recognized themselves first and foremost as individuals instead of members of a group.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 9th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Specter of Unscientific Public Policy

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There needs to be more science-based public polices, right? According to a lot of people, there does. According to me, the entire idea that there should be such a thing as public policy is absurd. But, much to my chagrin, most people still seem to be worshiping at the alter of statism so I find myself having to shoehorn ideas into that frame of reference. So I will say that I don’t believe there needs to be more science-based public policies because science is not the appropriate tool for determining public policy. What is the appropriate tool then? A healthy respect for individual rights. Let’s take a brief look at what happens when science is relied on for creating public policy instead of individual rights:

Throughout the 1930s (but actually continuing beyond that), at least 60,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized. American eugenics research was later put to use by Hitler’s Germany and was even cited at the Nuremberg Trials.

Many books and articles have been written about the eugenics movement more broadly, including some popular books of a recent vintage. The American experience with eugenics, as well as the Australian experience with stealing children in order to quicken the demise of the aborigines, to cite just two examples, demonstrate that concerns about the misuse of science are not confined to totalitarian, murderous regimes.

The science of genetics allowed us to better understand how certain traits are passed down from parents to offspring. After acquiring this new understanding people started arguing over what to do with it. This is where philosophy came into play. One camp, the pragmatists, thought that this knowledge must be acted on by passing legislation that legalized forcibly sterilizing people with undesirable genes. Another camp, what we might today refer to as classical liberals, thought that forcibly sterilizing people was a violation of their individual rights and therefore unacceptable even if they contained undesirable genes.

Today the predominate belief appears to be that the eugenics-based public policies of the past were a mistake. But humanity is still arguing about what to do with our scientific knowledge. Pragmatists are still arguing about what public policies to implement based on the latest scientific knowledge. Supporters of individual rights are arguing that that public policies should be based on individual rights, not scientific knowledge. As somebody firmly in the latter camp I agree with what the author wrote:

Science has also been part of debates over questions where a little respect for individual rights and good sense was all that was needed. We don’t need scientists to discover a “gay gene” in order to conclude that prohibiting consenting adults from having sex is wrong, and we don’t need scientists to show us that children raised in same-sex households are well-adjusted in order to allow same-sex marriage and child-rearing. To even endorse such arguments is to imply that only genetically determined sexual preferences should be protected (sorry BDSM community) and that the state has the power to use “science” to generally determine (as opposed to specifically removing children from dangerous households) who is allowed to raise children. Finally, we don’t need science—and we especially don’t need horrible dance numbers from Bill Nye’s show—to tell us that transgendered people deserve our respect and care.

Having a healthy respect for individual rights means you respect, even if you don’t necessarily like, the rights of everybody. Pragmatists, on the other hand, will only respect an individuals’ rights if they believe doing so will provide the most good to the largest number of people. What rights they’re willing to respect and for what groups largely depends on what they consider to be good.

Unscientific public policy shouldn’t be a specter. Public policy, if we’re going to have it, should be based first and foremost on individual rights, not scientific research. That’s the only way to guard against the pragmatism that lead to forcible sterilizations under the name of science. Whenever new public policies are being considered the question of whether or not such laws would bring the violence of the State upon nonviolent individuals should be the guiding principle. If they will then the policy should be dropped regardless of scientific research, if they won’t then the policy could be considered and scientific research could then come into play.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 5th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Problem with Pragmatism

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Fascists have been trying to make inroads into libertarian circles. That has lead a lot of libertarians to state that libertarianism is anti-fascist. I’m beginning to think that fascism isn’t the real problem for libertarianism, pragmatism is.

As I touched on yesterday, pragmatism has been leading some libertarians to side with fascists because they’re offering a “lighter” alternative to communists “full” socialism. I’ve also seen a few libertarians passing around this article, which is basically saying that libertarians should support universal basic income because it’s better than the current system of welfare. And, of course, I’ve seen some libertarians passing around this article, which argues that supporting universal healthcare is fiscally responsible.

These are just a few cases where I’ve seen libertarians argue for pragmatism. And they make me understand how Ludwig von Mises felt when he was attending a meeting of classical liberals and called them all a bunch of socialists as he stormed after they started talking about pragmatism:

When I hear libertarians siding with fascists, supporting universal basic income, and supporting universal healthcare I can’t help but call them a bunch of socialists because they are expressing pragmatism, which is a socialist ideology.

The problem with pragmatism is that it always requires compromising principles. While some libertarians might think that compromising their principles, at least if it’s only a little bit, is fine so long as it moves some libertarian ideas ahead, doing so actually forwards the goals of socialists in two ways. First, the compromise means at least some of their agenda was also moved ahead. Second, the compromise means that they were able to get some libertarians to bend on one thing, which gives them the knowledge to get them to bend on other things. The first is obvious, the second is sinister.

Getting people to compromise on their principles requires finding the right button to push. Usually the button is fear. If you can find something that somebody is so afraid of that they’re willing to set aside their principles to make themselves feel safer, you’ve won. In fact, that was the whole point of the Room 101 scene in Nineteen Eighty-Four. If, for example, somebody fears communism so greatly that they’re willing to side with fascists, the communists know that they can manipulate the actions of that person by exploiting that fear.

If you’re willing to compromise your principles then you’re susceptible to manipulation. If you’re susceptible to manipulation then your opponents manipulate you.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 25th, 2017 at 11:00 am

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

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