A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Category

In a Democracy Everybody Has a Say

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Take a look at the current political landscape. We have national socialists and international socialists doing battle openly. College campuses are currently deciding how much free speech they should allow. The harden the fuck up crowd and the snowflake crowd aren’t terribly pleased with each other. There are a lot of rifts between Americans today and they’re only becoming wider and more numerous. What makes these rifts worse is the fact that deciding which side will win on the political battlefield won’t be done by rigorous debate to decide the pros and cons of each idea, it will be decided by a popularity contest:

“Democracy,” H. L. Mencken once said, “is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” He also famously defined an election as “an advance auction sale of stolen goods.”

Mencken was not opposed to democracy. He simply possessed a more sobering view of its limitations than today’s conventional wisdom.

Indeed, democracy may be the world’s single most oversold concept of political governance. Commonly yet erroneously romanticized, it is assumed in most circles to ensure far more than it possibly can. The Norman Rockwell portrait of engaged, informed citizens contending freely on behalf of the common good is the utopian ideal that obscures the messy details of reality.

I’m sure you’ve all heard George Carlin’s quote, never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. Democracy is a mechanism that empowers people in large groups to do stupid things. One of the biggest flaws in democracy is the fact that it gives everybody an equal say in matters. Considering almost everybody on this planet, including myself, is incompetent when it comes to a vast majority of things, giving everybody an equal say in every matter is a recipe for disaster. The United States’ economic policies are probably the best illustration of this. Most people are incompetent when it comes to economics, which is why they’re willing to support a lot of really bad economic policies.

I think the best example of the power of stupid people in large groups is the fact that a majority of people still claim that democracy is a great system. Hell, a majority of the people who claim that the current state of the United States, which was created through democracy, is deplorable still claim that democracy is a great system. These people are simply parroting what they’ve been told. They’ve put almost no critical thought into the idea of democracy. Yet their voice on the matter is treated equally to everybody else’s, even the people who have done a great deal of research on democracy.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 1st, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Importance of Values

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Ken White wrote a great post that rebuts those who believe the government should curtail certain types of speech. It’s especially timely since, as he points out, we’ve reached the bottom of one hypothetical slippery slope brought up by proponents of government restricted speech: Nazis marching down the streets of American cities.

But you cannot destroy a value in order to save it. Nazis — like terrorists — hope that we will abandon principles and fundamentally change who we are out of fear. Assault is assault, threats are threats, murder is murder, and all of them should be vigorously investigated and prosecuted. The allowance for self-defense by those threatened by Nazis should reasonably be generous. But despicable speech is protected by the First Amendment, and should remain so. Our present circumstances show why it is sheer terrified madness to entrust a broad power to prevent or punish speech upon a fickle state. We’ve flirted with that madness of abandoning rights in pursuit of safety for our nation’s whole life. The flirtation has turned sordid and degrading during the War on Crime and frankly self-destructive after 9/11. It would be philosophical suicide to hasten it now by giving a government — a visibly terrible and amoral government — the power to regulate speech. This is the final hypothetical come to pass: if the state asked you to give up freedoms in exchange for a dubious promise it would make you safer, would you do it? Would you convince yourself that the state would only use the power against Them, and not you?

Handing the government more power always sounds like a good idea when the people you agree with are in charge of that government. But that power looks frightening when its in the hands of the people you disagree with.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 15th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Lead by Example

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My earlier post about the bakers that refused to bake a Trump theme cake lead me to another thought. I oppose discrimination. Personally, I find disassociating with somebody because of their race, religion, gender, age, etc. to be a form of collectivism and you know how much I hate collectivism. Even though I oppose discrimination I also oppose forcing people to associate with people they don’t want to associate with. This puts me at odds with a lot of people who oppose discrimination. In their eyes, because of my unwillingness to use force to solve what I see as a problem, I don’t actually oppose discrimination but merely pay lip service to doing so. This is a common argument between people who use force to get what they want and people who try to convince people that what they want is a good thing.

Most of the people I know who identify themselves as alt-right really dislike me because I don’t believe pushing national socialists out of helicopters is an effective way to bring about an individualist society. How can I claim to be a serious anti-collectivist if I’m not willing to kill collectivists? As I’ve said before, the ends reflect the means. If you use force to make people bend to your will, you’re not moving individual freedom forward. In the end you’ll simply replace one tyranny with another form of tyranny.

Discrimination is similar in that regard. If you force, say, a white man who is racist against blacks to associate with blacks, you have furthered discrimination. Of course, some will say that discrimination against white racists is acceptable just as many alt-righters will say that violence against collectivists is acceptable. However, the problem of discrimination hasn’t actually been solved, it has just been amplified. Instead of there being a white man who discriminates against blacks we now have him and a government that discriminates against white racists. Simply forcing somebody to act against their will doesn’t solve the problem. At best it will conceal the problem, at worst it will motivate the target to increase the severity of their actions in an act of rebellion.

How can discrimination be reduced without coercion? First, if you want to protect a discriminated group from violence, help makes of that group harder targets. Teach them how to defend themselves, help them organization mutual defense groups, walk them through the process of obtaining a carry permit and firearm, etc. That increases the cost of violently discriminating against them. Second, lead by example. Choose your friends by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Do business with people who are being discriminated against. Stand by them when somebody is discriminating against them. Show everybody who watches you that your life has benefited from not discriminating.

This applies to anything. If you want to advance individual freedom, lead by example. Live a life as free as you can, discuss the benefits of individual freedom with statists, and continue to educate yourself about individual freedom so that you can answer questions put forth by both sympathizers and critics. Make yourself what you want to see in the world. If people see that your benefiting from your way of life, they may decide that your way of life isn’t as terrible as they expected it to be and come around to your way of thinking. Then the problem you perceive will actually be solved instead of covered up or amplified.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 10th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Voluntary Association

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If a homosexual couple asks a baker who is a devout Christian to bake their wedding cake and he refuses for religious reasons, should the State force him to bake the cake? A lot of people, predominantly those on the progressive side of the political spectrum but even some self-proclaimed libertarians, would say yes. Now let’s turn this around. Let’s say the mother of a child who is a fan of Donald Trump asks a baker who hates Trump to bake her son a Trump themed cake, should the baker be required to bake it:

Nine-year-old Dylan Harbin, aka “Pickle,” is such a big fan of President Donald Trump that his mother SueAnn tried to get him a Trump cake for his birthday. However, according to the Washington Post, bakeries in the Harbins’ home state of California have refused to make the cake, forcing the mother to bake the cake herself.

Interestingly enough, some of the people who wanted the State to force a Christian baker to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage don’t hold the same opinion in regards to this scenario.

I support the principle of voluntary association, which includes voluntary disassociation. A devout Christian should be allowed to not bake a cake for a wedding they morally disagree with. Sure, I find them foolish for not taking the job but my personal morals rate coercing somebody into action they don’t want to take far worse than personal discrimination. Likewise, I think the bakers who refused to bake a Trump themed cake are rather foolish, they’re just leaving money on the table, but I also believe they have the right to decided whether or not they want to associate with customers who oppose their political beliefs.

If voluntary association doesn’t exist, no other rights can really be said to exist. Moreover, if somebody can force you to do something against your will, you’re not really free.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 10th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Freedom of Speech

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I’m sure you’ve all heard about the engineer at Google who spent out a manifesto against diversity. I’m sure you’ve also heard that that engineer has been fired. There are enough posts discussing the contents of the manifesto and Google’s response so I won’t bore you with that. However, based on comments being posted everywhere, I feel the need to point out something. The First Amendment only applies to government censorship.

Yes, a lot of people are claiming that Google’s actions are an abridgment of the engineer’s free speech but the concept of free speech doesn’t apply in this case. Freedom of speech, as a concept, states that you have the right to say whatever you want without being punished by the State. It doesn’t shield you from consequences from private parties though.

If you come into my home and spout a bunch of racial slurs, I will kick you out. I won’t be abridging your freedom of speech by doing so though, I’m will merely be enforcing my right to voluntarily disassociate with you. You can continue spouting those racial slurs, you just can’t do it in my home. Google enforced its right to voluntarily disassociate with the engineer who wrote that manifesto. It didn’t prevent him from speaking out against diversity, he can still do so. He just can’t do so as an employee of Google.

While the concept of free speech prevents an agent of the government from jailing the engineer, it doesn’t shield him from consequences. An employer can choose to fire him, a friend can choose to stop associating with him, and a homeowner can choose to forbid him from entering their property.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 9th, 2017 at 10:30 am

The Ends Reflect the Means

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There has been an upsurge in what I like to call libertarian nationalism. I’m sure you’re aware of the type of individual I’m talking about. They usually claim to be libertarians but also claim that the only way to fight the “leftists” is through tactics that look, walk, and talk like fascism. They remind me of a quote from Ludwig von Mises’s Omnipotent Government:

Omnipotent Government is Mises’s chronicling of the rise of the Nazi Party and it’s a valuable read for anybody who believes that totalitarian tactics can be used to fight totalitarianism. Those who are unfamiliar with the history of the Nazi Party might not be aware that before it decided to fight Jews it fought the Bolsheviks. The Nazi Party, which was a national socialist party, and the Bolsheviks, who were international socialists, were both fighting for control of Germany. The Nazi Party used totalitarian tactics to fight totalitarians and the result, not surprisingly, was totalitarianism.

Libertarian nationalists subscribe to the idea that the ends justify the means (which is also the idea that communists tend to subscribe to). However, the ends always reflect the means. If you use totalitarian means you will get totalitarian ends. On the other hand, as Mises pointed out, if you use the unconditional principles of freedom then you will get freedom in the end.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 2nd, 2017 at 11:00 am

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