A Geek With Guns

Discount security adviser to the proles.

Archive for the ‘Liberty’ Category

Republicans Versus Democrats Versus Libertarians

with 4 comments

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?

Written by Christopher Burg

July 26th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Cultural Libertarianism

without comments

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).

Written by Christopher Burg

April 21st, 2016 at 10:00 am

Loyalty To The Party

without comments

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.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 20th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Property Taxes Encourage Gentrification

without comments

Property taxes are often used by municipal governments to raise funds for the services they’ve monopolized. These services include paychecks for municipal employees, which often includes the very people who voted to implement the current property tax rates.

Because property taxes are used to fund municipal services they’re also a popular topic for political do-gooders. Whenever a perceived blight on the city arises; whether it be homelessness, crime, or environmental issues; the do-gooders demand the property taxes be raised to fund programs to alleviate the blight. Oftentimes these do-gooders are also the same people who complain about gentrification. As politics tends to do, this creates a vicious cycle that leads people to be at odds with themselves.

The very property taxes that fund municipal services are also an incentive for municipal governments to gentrify entire neighborhoods. Gentrification, after all, leads to an increase in property taxes since older, lower-valued properties are replaced with newer, higher-valued properties. Together a few home built in the 1940s tend to have a much lower property value than a single high-density apartment complex. Since property taxes are almost always tied to the value of a property a municipal government can make more money off of the high-density apartment complex than the old homes.

As the number of municipal services increases the number of city employees also increases. That means a larger and larger block of municipal voters are dependent on the rate of property taxes. Furthermore, municipal employees, like every other kind of employee, want to see their pay increase over time. Since politicians tend to want to stay in office instead of finding meaningful employment they have a vested interest in pandering to the majority of voters. How can members of a city council promise municipal employees that their jobs won’t go away and that they’ll get their desired raises? By raising property taxes, of course. As an added benefit the increase in property taxes allows the members of the city council to increase their pay as well.

I’m sure you can see the vicious cycle that forms from this. Wanting to increase the amount of money brought in by property taxes, the municipal governments continue to implement programs that encourage lower-valued property be replaced by higher-valued properties. As these programs fulfill their intended goal the number of properties affordable by poorer individuals continues to decrease. In effect property taxes, instead of being a form of relief for the poor, create a cycle that incentivizes municipal governments to push the poor out of the city.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 23rd, 2016 at 11:00 am

You Can’t Change The System From Within

without comments

Gods help me, we’re in an election year. That means every uneducated wanker in the country is spewing endless streams of bullshit and calling them facts. Worse yet, they want to use their bullshit to inflict their will upon everybody else through the political process. Even libertarians get caught up in this frenzy. And to make matters even worse (and it’s rather impressive that we can make it worse) libertarians involving themselves in the political process have a delusion even greater than most politicos because they believe they can actually destroy the State by becoming the State. The problem with that idea is that the State has contingencies built in to guard against such lofty people of principle:

Getting yourself into one of the branches of government is a process that you don’t just wake up one day and decide to do. Actually, you could wake up one day and decide to do it, but it has the same effect as deciding to be a banana. The process that you go through to get elected will destroy your anarchist/libertarian credibility (*cough*Rand*cough*). Even more if you are going to get appointed to your position. You will have to make promises (lie), fight politically (cheat) and get funded (steal) to get into that that office.

And once there?

Now you have promises to fulfill.

Now you have enemies to ward off.

Now you have debts to repay.

“But wait!” you say. “I am a principled anarchist/libertarian! I won’t play those political games! I won’t fulfill those promises (that would make government bigger). I won’t repay those debts (with government contracts) Now I’ve achieved my goal of bringing down the state from within! Now I’m going to launch my state-ending policy agenda! Muahahahaha!”

At least I have no cape1Good for you, Super Anarchist Politician (SAP). How are you planning to get your government limiting bills to the Floor for a vote? Might be that you need a co-sponsor or some other champion to help you out. Who have you got? The senior members from your State want nothing to do with you. In fact, nobody does after they found out you lied, cheated and stole your way to get in. And you didn’t even have the common courtesy to pay back your campaign contributors (tsk! tsk!). Do you really think anyone is going to jump on your bandwagon?

Getting into office requires mortgaging your soul. Once your in office getting anything done requires refinancing your soul. Ron Paul is living proof of this. He held office for quite some time and during that time the State didn’t shrink one iota. That’s because he mostly kept to his principles, which meant he was unable to broker deals with his fellow politicians. They wanted more power so they weren’t going to cooperate with a man who wanted less.

The article goes on to make other important points. If you believe the system can be changed, or even slowed down, from within then I recommend you read the entire article. But the conclusion explains the actual root of the problem:

The State exists and has power because people believe it does. People believe that the government should rule over them and society. People believe we need a group of rulers to keep us safe. People believe that voting grants special rights, powers and privileges to the elected that don’t exist for everyone else. People believe lies.

Democracies favor the majority and the majority believe in the State. The people themselves will push back against your attempts to free them because they want to be serfs. They believe their lord is the only thing that protects them from the barbarian hordes. By extent they believe anybody attempting to slay their lord is a barbarian trying to kill them.

What you can do is get together with other anarchists and try to create a community of likeminded (but not too likeminded) individuals. Much like the Christians under Roman persecution, anarchists need to keep as much of their business amongst each other as possible. By bolstering one another we can at least create a community of people we can rely on when the State inevitably collapses under the weight of everybody’s good intentions.

Those wanting to change the world for the better should focus on education. If the people you’re talking to decided what you’re selling sounds pretty good they’ll come into the community and help it thrive. Everybody else can continue living as they have been. It’s about as close to a win-win situation as we’ll likely get.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 21st, 2016 at 11:00 am

But What About The Borders

without comments

Nationalism seems to be running strong in the veins of many pretend libertarians. I keep seeing people who call themselves libertarians arguing for stronger borders. Their argument usually goes something like, “In order to create a libertarian society we need a strong federal government to keep out the antilibertarians!”

Not surprisingly this attitude is more prevalent amongst politically active libertarians. There must be some kind of connection between the delusion that one can vote their way to libertarianism and believing giving the government more power will better enable voting their way to libertarianism.

But how can one create a libertarian society, that is to say a stateless society, by expanding the State’s power? I guess one could hope to expand the State’s power until it reaches that inevitable point of becoming so massive it collapses in on itself but that’s a pretty bloody road, especially for political libertarians. As a general rule the more totalitarian a state becomes the less tolerant of dissidents it becomes. Political opponents are usually the first against the wall since they made themselves very obvious to the State.

Fuck Your Free Speech

with 3 comments

Have you heard? There’s a culture war being waged! Our very way of life is threatened! Nowhere is this more apparently than on college campuses! Evil liberal college students are trying to suppress our right to free speech:

If Emory University students got their way, end-of-semester course evaluations would ask them to indicate whether their professors had committed “microaggressions” against them.

The explicit goal of such a question on evaluations would be to punish professors who engaged in speech that offended students. According to student-protesters, as reported by The Emory Wheel:

We demand that the faculty evaluations that each student is required to complete for each of their professors include at least two open-ended questions such as: “Has this professor made any microaggressions towards you on account of your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, and/or other identity?” and “Do you think that this professor fits into the vision of Emory University being a community of care for individuals of all racial, gender, ability, and class identities?” These questions on the faculty evaluations would help to ensure that there are repercussions or sanctions for racist actions performed by professors. We demand that these questions be added to the faculty evaluations by the end of this semester, Fall 2015.

I’ve tried to stay out of this “culture war” nonsense because I made the mistake of assuming most libertarians understood what the root problems were. But as I see more and more libertarians latching onto the culture aspect I realize my assumption made an ass out of me. So let’s take a step back and look at the big picture.

Free speech isn’t the issue here, contrary to what many libertarians claim. Truth be told libertarianism doesn’t acknowledge free speech. Libertarianism acknowledges property rights. So long as you’re on your own property you can say whatever you want but the second you step foot on somebody else’s property they can boot you for saying something they don’t approve of. From a libertarian perspective the first problem isn’t free speech, it’s the lack of clear property rights. Public universities fall into the same murky category as all government property. Ownership is unclear therefore who gets to make the rules is unclear. But there’s another fundamental problem here. Even unclear property rights tend to be a trivial problem so long as the interests of everybody involved are mostly aligned.

These campus disputes are exacerbated by the fact a lot of people with vastly different beliefs are trying to control organizations that have no clear membership criteria. Most high school students have it drilled into their heads that their highest mission in life is to get a diploma so they can work for somebody. Therefore a high school student’s senior year usually consists of sending applications to universities. Although some students have specific schools in mind most just want to get accepted somewhere so they can get that piece of paper that fulfills their mission objective. On the flip side of this equation are the universities. They base who they accept primarily on academic criteria. In the end you have a bunch of students with no expressed purpose other than obtaining a diploma joining an organization that has no expressed membership criteria other than academic scores. Basically we’ve got a bunch of people who don’t necessarily agree with one another joining the same organization.

Let’s compare this with a pirate ship. Pirate ships are interesting because they necessarily require a crew cooperating with one another to function. Ownership of a pirate ship was much clearer than the ownership of a public university but it wasn’t what many libertarians would consider ideal. No single person who owned the ship. Instead each crew member effectively owned a share of the ship. Pirate ships also usually had a constitution. People wanting to join a pirate ship had to agree to the clauses of the ship’s constitution, which outlined everything from the chain of command to punishments to the division of plunder, before being accepted. The reason for this is obvious: a ship only functions if the entire crew is working together. To avoid having everything fall apart pirate ships told potential crew members what was expected of them before they signed up. Pirates chose their ship based on what they wanted. If a pirate didn’t want to, say, attack British ships (believe it or not many pirates were ideological and wouldn’t attack just anybody) they signed up with a ship that had a stated prohibition against attacking British ships. Furthermore any changes to the rules had to be approved by all members of the ship since each member was effectively a partial owner of the ship.

How does a pirate ship relate to a university? It’s an organization that’s a far more interesting example than, say, a hippie cooperative that specialized in gluten free, organic, free trade, all natural food and doesn’t suffer from the same pitfalls as most public universities.

Some university students want a tightly controlled environment where things like offensive speech are prohibited. Other students want a very loosely controlled environment where people can say almost anything without consequence. Neither of these desires are right or wrong, it’s just a difference in preference. Problems arise because ownership of most universities are unclear and they don’t outline membership criteria up front. Free speech isn’t the issue. Students becoming members of organizations with unclear processes for establishing and changing rules that also don’t align with their preferences is the problem.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 16th, 2015 at 11:00 am

Petty Little Tyrants

without comments

Do you know who amuses me? People who complain about government control only when it’s not working for their interests. In other words, almost everybody. Case in point, one of my socialist friends (believe it or not, I have those) posted this article that complains about the San Francisco Planning Commission’s plot to bulldoze a bunch of existing property in order to replace it with more expensive property:

For the good of the City, your old apartment building could be torn down! You’ll be figuring out the next few years living elsewhere, while some developer builds a new “affordable” unit for you. You will have to wait a few years to move back, if the new building even gets built.

Don’t worry, though. This isn’t just about you. It’s your neighbor’s place too. And your whole neighborhood. In fact, the San Francisco Planning Department has placed a developer “incentive” bullseye on nearly 31,000 parcels in every corner of the City. Colored blue on their maps, these vast areas also include your neighborhood corner store, produce market, pub, and restaurant. These homes and businesses are standing selfishly in the way of progress according to the proposed Affordable Housing Density Bonus Program.

I agree that this is pretty shitty. And the article correctly points out that a bait and switch similar to this proposal has been done in the city before:

Remember that Redevelopment of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s promised “one for one” replacement. People who were displaced from their Victorian style homes in the Fillmore were told they could return after the Redevelopment Agency built new co-op and other BMR housing. The new housing was promised to be modern and price controlled– an upgrade from the aging Victorians considered by the Agency to be blight. However, in reality, this was the demise of the thriving African-American communities in San Francisco.

This is exactly the same rationale being applied in 2015. At the latest presentation to the Planning Commission on December 3, Planning staff told them that displaced tenants would be given priority to return, and that the new housing would be more affordable than the rent controlled units they currently live in.

Obviously the Planning Commission can’t be trusted and should be disbanded, right? Not so much. Although the author correctly points out that this proposal is little more than a land grab he concludes that the problem isn’t the existence of the Planning Committee, but that they aren’t using their powers the way he wants them to:

What can we do instead? […] There are surface parking lots, large and small, that could be developed as affordable housing. The parking would not be lost because it could be incorporated into the new building.

The City should be using its Housing Bond and Housing Trust Fund dollars to buy as many of these sites as it possibly can– or purchase the air rights like what Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and Bridge Housing did to create affordable senior housing over existing retail with parking. The only way to achieve the Housing Balance is to stop the loss of rent controlled units and to build 100% new affordable housing. This is true development without displacement which is what San Francisco desperately needs!

He’s such a petty little tyrant that somehow knows what everybody in San Francisco needs. This guy is a prime example of somebody just smart enough to identify a symptom of a problem but too stupid to identify the problem itself. The problem isn’t the proposal itself, it’s the existence of a body that can make and enforce such a proposal. Theft shouldn’t be legal just because some government body approves it.

What needs to be done? Abolish the San Francisco government, including the Planning Committee. People need to get over their petty desires for power and work together. If you don’t like how your neighbor is utilizing their property then try to work out a deal with them. Propose another idea and see if they’ll take you up on it. If all else fails make them an offer for their property. I know, that’s not as easy as siccing a government agency on them to force them to do what you want. But government agencies are funny things. One moment they’re doing what you want and the next moment they’re doing what you don’t want. Unless you want guns pointed at your head in the future you should abandon your petty tyrannical ways and try to work with your neighbors instead of against them.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 16th, 2015 at 10:00 am

One Sword Keeps Another In The Sheath

with 4 comments

George Herbert once wrote, “One sword keeps another in the sheath.” Later Robert Heinlein expressed a similar idea in Beyond This Horizon when he wrote, “An armed society is a polite society.” Today many people would argue the idea shared by Herbert and Heinlein is destructive. They argue that peace can only exist when the general population is unarmed but acknowledge the need for weapons to enforce such a prohibition so generally approve of the military and police keeping their weapons. But Herbert and Heinlein were correct, peace tends to prevail when no disparity of force exists.

Force is an appealing option when one enjoys a greater capacity for it than their target. We see this every day with violent criminals. Amongst violent criminals there is a great tendency for targeting easier prey. The criteria that determine how easy a target is varies. If the criminal is physically strong they may see physically weak individuals as easy prey. If the criminal has a gun they may see anybody who is unarmed as easy prey. If the criminal is with friends they may see any group they that is numerically inferior as easy prey. Most criminals see people who are entirely unaware of their surroundings as easy prey. In general criminals target those they believe to have a lesser capacity for force than themselves. Economically this makes sense because the risks of employing violence decrease when your force advantage over your target increases.

But force becomes unattractive when your target enjoys an equal capacity. The reason for this is obvious. Force carries with it the possibility of severe injury or death. That’s what makes force appealing to those who enjoy a sizable advantage. But it also means a target that is on equal footing with you stands a good chance of injuring or killing you. If two renowned swordsmen are both carrying their swords the likelihood of a disagreement between them turning violent is going to remain fairly low. Both of them know drawing their sword will cause an equal reaction from the other and the outcome of the fight may very well include the loss of limbs or life.

This principle remains even on larger scales. A nation only tends to declare war against another if it believes it’s in an advantaged position. When a nation doesn’t believe it enjoys a force advantage it tends to use diplomacy. The United States and the Soviet Union avoided a direct war because both had enough nuclear weaponry to wipe the other out. Napoleon invaded Russia because he believed his military was superior and that would ensure his victory.

One of the reasons I believe stateless societies tend to be more peaceful than ones under statism is because the disparity of force between the people and the State is nonexistent. Iceland’s stateless period, medieval Ireland, the Old American West, and Neutral Moresnet are all examples of stateless societies that tended to be very peaceful when compared to their statist neighbors. Since there was no organization with a great force advantage over everybody else the tendency was for people to choose diplomacy over violence.

The desire to eliminate disparity of force, and therefore reduce the appeal of using violence, is one of the primary reasons libertarians tend to be supporters of allowing individuals to be armed. They recognize that one gun keeps another in the holster. It is also why even libertarian statists tend to support individuals enjoying arms parity with the police and military.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 27th, 2015 at 11:00 am

Cultures Cannot Own Ideas Either

without comments

Several of my friends have been passing around the story of the University of Ottawa cancelling a free yoga class because of concerns of cultural appropriation. I ignored it just as I ignore most culture war stories. Especially when the remedy to the cancellation is as simple as continuing the classes without official recognition from the university. But some valuable discussion did manage to rise from the ashes. Namely that ideas aren’t property and therefore cannot belong to anybody:

Yoga, whether you’re a fan of it or not, doesn’t exclusively belong to some group of people who share the same skin color or language or culture or religion — just as classical music or Western medicine or modern physics doesn’t belong to the Europeans. It, like all such ideas, is the common heritage of all mankind. That means of each and every one of us, even those of us who have a genetic background or culture that some people feel aggrieved at.

We (Indian, American, African, Oceanian, anyone else) are entitled to use it, to adapt it, to merge it with other ideas. There’s no improper “appropriation” here because there’s no “property” here in the first place.

After this the author does some backtracking and tries to justify patents and copyrights. His inconsistency towards the end of the article don’t invalidate the beginning of the article though. Ideas are not a finite resource that can be exclusively held by a single individual. You can copy an idea but that doesn’t deprive the originator of it so the act cannot be called theft.

Most instances where I’ve seen accusations of cultural appropriation made were when somebody was making use of an idea that originated in another culture. Sometimes the usage is malicious and meant to mock the culture but more often than not the usage is innocent. In the former case I think an accusation of the user being a jackass suffices and in the latter I think the usage should be encouraged. Adopting ideas from other cultures tends to have the effect of forwarding the adopter’s view of the culture they’re drawing from.

For example, I participate in Japanese martial arts and part of that involves adopting Japanese cultural ideas not directly related to the combat styles themselves. Several of those ideas are themselves adopted from Buddhism. Buddhism in Japan came from China, which adopted Buddhism from India where the religion originated. So I’ve adopted cultural ideas that were adopted from cultural ideas that were adopted from cultural ideas. If I am guilty of cultural appropriation, and I have been accused of it by one person, then I am merely continuing a trend of cultural appropriation that spans back into prehistory. With all of that said I feel as though I’m a better person because of it. My overall understanding of the world expanded because I adopted ideas from another culture.

I use myself as an example because I am the person I know best. But most people I know who had adopted ideas from other cultures have become better people because of it. A lot of people I know practice yoga and feel they are better because of it. Seeing their enjoyment of life increase leads me to believe they are correct. Many of my friends also practice various forms of meditation, which clearly do not have roots in European culture. Again they feel it has made them better people and I agree. In addition to becoming better people these friends of mine tend to have a more expansive worldview. That fuller worldview tends to make them less xenophobic and if there’s anything the world needs it’s less xenophobia.

The idea that one’s ability to adopt ideas from other cultures is dependent on what culture they were born into is another attempt at monopolizing ideas. Cultural appropriation belongs on the same shelf as copyrights and patents: fiction. While there are certainly valid grounds for criticizing people who adopt a cultural idea for the sole purpose of denigrating the culture they should be based on the person being an asshole. On the other hand people who adopt ideas from other cultures should be encouraged because it will only help expand their worldview and very well may help to different cultures come together. Above all though we should recognize that cultural ideas aren’t a special exception to the illegitimacy of intellectual property.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 25th, 2015 at 11:00 am