A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Not So Crazy Libertarian Ideals’ tag

Collectivizing Individual Action

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The War on Some Drugs is justified by collectivizing individual action. According to its proponents, drug usage is a societal problem. They try to justify this claim by using other forms of collectivism. For example, proponents of the drug war will claim that drug usage costs “us” fantastic amounts of money in healthcare-related expenses. However, they can only make that claim because the government has collectivized a significant portion of the healthcare market. If the healthcare market were a free market, drug users would be left footing the expenses for their habit.

The drug war’s current hot topic is illegal opioid usage. In an attempt to make illegal opioid usage look like a societal problem, proponents of the drug war are now claiming that opioid usage has lowered the average life expectancy in the United States:

The problem is so bad, in fact, that the epidemic is dragging down the entire country’s life expectancy—by 2.5 months. That’s according to a new analysis by CDC researchers who published Tuesday in JAMA.

The problem with this statistic is that it’s completely meaningless.

Drug usage isn’t a communicable disease like plague or the flu. A drug user can’t transmit the effects of the drugs they’re using to you. Like them, you have to make a conscious decision to use drugs. If my neighbor down the street decides to use heroine, my life expectancy isn’t impacts in any way whatsoever. But if enough people actually realized that, the government would have a difficult time drumming up popular support for its very profitable war.

What’s the Libertarian Position on…

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What’s the libertarian position on abortion? What’s the libertarian position on hate speech? What’s the libertarian position on corporate welfare? The question about the official libertarian position on various controversial topics is common, especially amongst anti-libertarians who are looking for something to crucify libertarians with and freshly converted libertarians. However, it’s not a good question because libertarianism doesn’t have many official positions.

The foundation of most branches of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle, which states that initiating aggression is undesirable. Other common principles include strong individualism and support for private property. The common principle of strong individualism butts heads with the question about the official libertarian position. While individual libertarians may hold a specific position on a controversial topic, there is seldom an official libertarian position because such an official position would go against individualism.

For example, there is no official libertarian position on abortion. Many libertarians see abortion as aggression against a fetus and therefore believe abortion is immoral. On the other hand, many other libertarians see forcing a mother to carry an unwanted fetus until birth as a violation of her self-ownership and therefore believe abortion is moral (or at least more moral than violating the mother’s self-ownership).

Oftentimes libertarians themselves fail to understand the strong individualism common in the philosophy they follow. When asked what the libertarian position on a topic is, they will give their position as the official libertarian position. But speaking authoritatively for others without having that authority delegated to you by the individuals you’re speaking for is collectivism, which is commonly accepted as anti-libertarian.

The question isn’t what the libertarian position is but what a libertarian’s position is. What is your position on abortion? What is your position on hate speech? What is your position on corporate welfare?

Written by Christopher Burg

September 13th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Digital Serfdom

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Do you own your phone? How about your thermostat or even your car? I would guess that most people would reflexively respond that they do own those things. However, due to intellectual property laws, you don’t:

One key reason we don’t control our devices is that the companies that make them seem to think – and definitely act like – they still own them, even after we’ve bought them. A person may purchase a nice-looking box full of electronics that can function as a smartphone, the corporate argument goes, but they buy a license only to use the software inside. The companies say they still own the software, and because they own it, they can control it. It’s as if a car dealer sold a car, but claimed ownership of the motor.

This sort of arrangement is destroying the concept of basic property ownership.

I’ve hit on this topic numerous times but it bears repeating. Copyright laws don’t apply to purely mechanical goods so when you buy an older car or a mechanical watch you actually own it. Copyright laws do apply to software so when you buy anything that runs software you are licensing it. The difference between ownership and licensing is significant.

If you own something, you have the right to do whatever you want with it. If a product that you own breaks, you can hire anybody you want to repair it. If you are unhappy with the performance of a product that you own, you can modify it to your heart’s content. If you license something, you have a limited set of privileges. If your licensed product breaks, you might be restricted on where you can take it for repairs. If your are unhappy with the performance of your licensed product, you might be restricted on what kind of modifications, if any, you are allowed to make.

As software becomes more pervasive, ownership will become more endangered. It doesn’t have to be this way though. If copyrights didn’t apply to software, manufacturers wouldn’t have a legal foundation to restrict buyers. If manufacturers used free (as in freedom) software, buyers would be able to own their products. Unfortunately, I don’t think manufacturers will make any major move to utilize free software since most of them probably enjoy the fact that the State is subsidizing them by enforcing their ability to license instead of sell their products to buyers. Until that changes, digital serfdom will remain the norm and buyers won’t be able to claim that they own the products that they spend money on.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 13th, 2017 at 10:30 am

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

Make Yourself Great Again

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Donald Trump won the presidential election with the meaningless slogan, make America great again. I say that it’s a meaningless slogan because America isn’t an actual thing, it only exists in our head. America cannot reason, think, or act. Only individuals can. But this is America and the people composing the public schooling systems have taught several generations that fiction is fact (and in fairness to the people composing the public schooling system, the United States public schooling system isn’t the first nor will it likely be the last to do this).

Instead of following meaningless slogans, I propose following a meaningful one, make yourself great again. How do you do this? First, focus on yourself. Self-interest is often seen as a bad characteristic. A lot of people like to claim that it’s greedy. Instead they say everybody should be focused on “the greater good.”

This is probably why so many people get sucked into the fiction of collectives. They forgo self-interest because they don’t want to be seen as greedy and instead focus on “the greater good.” Of course, “the greater good” is usually defined by other people. Let’s again consider the slogan, make American great again. What did making American great again involve? Voting for Donald Trump. However, that didn’t make American great since America is a fiction. That didn’t make you great either since you’re not one of the individuals who achieved victory. Donald Trump won the election. Those directly connected to him were gifted various things by him. You didn’t gain anything. Your life remains unchanged because your efforts went to somebody else instead of yourself. If you want to make yourself great, you need to focus on yourself.

Second, define great. My definition of greatness is complex and always changing, however, I include a constant drive to improve myself physically and mentally in my definition. I workout and study almost every day. My goal when I wake up is to be stronger and smarter by the time I go to bed. Only you can define what is great for you. I do suggest setting a few goals though since goals give you something concrete to strive for and thus provide you a mechanism of judging progress.

Third, pursue your definition of great. This is the part most people have difficulty with. Pursuing your definition of great will likely require discipline so your first goal may very well be to develop discipline.

Pursuing goals given to you by others won’t make you great because those goals were never meant to make you great, they were meant to improve the greatness of whoever gave you those goals. Pursuing your own goals at least has the chance of making you great (while it’s always possible to fail to achieve a goal, your chances of achieving it are far greater if you’re actually pursuing it). So consider tossing off the make believe shackles of collectivism. Forget about “the greater good.” Be selfish.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 25th, 2017 at 11:00 am

The State Doesn’t Provide Protection

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The Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcers have no obligation to protect you even though you have an obligation to pay them. Being paid for services that haven’t been rendered leads to some unfortunate situations. For example, law enforcers refused to provide protection to a Jewish synagogue during the Charlottesville fiasco so they had to hire professionals:

The Jewish community in Charlottesville hired armed security to protect its synagogue for the first time after local police declined to provide a guard for the site despite hundreds of white supremacists congregating on the town over the weekend for a rally that resulted in the murder of counter-protester Heather Heyer.

Unlike law enforcers, private security providers are motivated to provide protection because if they don’t then they don’t get paid.

This situation is a counterargument to the people who claim that the State is necessary to provide protection. These statists usually argue that in a society without a government poor people would be preyed upon because they wouldn’t be able to hire protective services. However, that situation doesn’t differ from the situation we currently live under. Even though there is a government people still have to hire private security if they want security because the State has exempted its own security providers from having to actually provide it.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 18th, 2017 at 11:00 am

False Idols

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Early yesterday morning, and by early I mean under the cover of darkness, workers whisked away a handful of idols to a government that vanished some time ago:

Statues dedicated to Confederate heroes were swiftly removed across Baltimore in the small hours of Wednesday morning, just days after violence broke out over the removal of a similar monument in neighboring Virginia.

Beginning soon after midnight on Wednesday, a crew, which included a large crane and a contingent of police officers, began making rounds of the city’s parks and public squares, tearing the monuments from their pedestals and carting them out of town.

Thou shalt have no other state before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image of false states.

Personally, I have no issue with remove idols of statism from public view. My problem is how selectively it’s being done. Idols to the Confederate States of America are being removed by idols to the United States of America have so far remained untouched. I know a lot of people who have been demanding the removal of Confederate statutes have argued on the grounds of racism and slavery. Since the United States of America maintained the practice of slavery after the Revolutionary War as well committed mass genocide of American Indians, it would seem appropriate to move its idols as well. Unfortunately, I find myself doubting that the same zeal will be put into removing idols of George Washington as Robert E. Lee because most people living in the United States seem to believe that it’s the One True State.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 17th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Why Collectivism is Doomed to Fail

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Nazism is in the headlines again because there are people who still take the ideology seriously. The fact that anybody takes Nazism seriously is evidence that not enough people have read Ludwig von Mises. Mises thoroughly destroyed Nazism in his book Omnipotent Government. One of the most important points he made was that Nazism, due to its foundational principles, was doomed to eternal strife:

The strong man, say the Nazis, is not only entitled to kill. He has the right to use fraud, lies, defamation, and forgery as legitimate weapons. Every means is right that serves the German nation. But who has to decide what is good for the German nation?

To this question the Nazi philosopher replies quite candidly: Right and noble are what I and my comrades deem such, are what the sound feelings of the people (das gesunde Volksempfinden) hold good, right, and fair. But whose feelings are sound and whose unsound? About that matter, say the Nazis, there can be no dispute between genuine Germans.

But who is a genuine German? Whose thoughts and feelings are genuinely German and whose are not? Whose ideas are German ones—those of Lessing, Goethe, and Schiller, or those of Hitler and Goebbels? Was Kant, who wanted eternal peace, genuinely German? Or are Spengler, Rosenberg, and Hitler, who call pacifism the meanest of all ideas, genuine Germans?

There is dissension among men to whom the Nazis themselves do not deny the appellation German. The Nazis try to escape from this dilemma by admitting that there are some Germans who unfortunately have un-German ideas. But if a German does not always necessarily think and feel in a correct German way, who is to decide which German’s ideas are German and which un-German? It is obvious that the Nazis are moving in a circle. Since they abhor as manifestly un-German decision by majority vote, the conclusion is inescapable that according to them German is whatever those who have succeeded in civil war consider to be German.

This isn’t a problem exclusive to Nazism. Any philosophy that defines what is right or wrong by the “will” of a collective will suffer this exactly problem.

Another thing that Mises pointed out is, “All rational action is in the first place individual action. Only the individual thinks. Only the individual reasons. Only the individual acts.” A collective has no will. It cannot think, reason, or act. Individuals within a collective can think, reason, and act but the collective itself is nothing more than an abstraction. Discussing the “will of the people” is nonsense.

But the abstractions don’t stop there. Once somebody allows themselves to believe that a collective can have a will they inevitably start grouping individuals into various collectives. Usually these collectives are poorly defined. In Mises’ book he points out how poorly defined “genuine German” was. Under Marxism people are grouped into either the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. In the Soviet Union the government threw anybody it didn’t like into a catchall group called kulaks. What constitutes a genuine German, proletariat, bourgeoisie, or kulak? It depends on who gets to define those collectives. Usually the “good” groups, like genuine Germans and proletariat, are defined as “everybody who agrees with me” whereas the “bad” groups, like bourgeoisie and kulaks, are defined as “everybody who disagrees with me.”

The national socialists in this country are already busy defining their collectives. They obvious hold anybody who is white in the highest regard. However, if one happens to be both white and Jewish then they are relegated to the dregs of society because, according to national socialists, Jews are the lowest collective. I’m not sure how Asians rank in their system although I know they certainly rank below whites. Blacks certainly rank pretty low in the national socialist system although I think the current consensus amongst its proponents is that they’re still slightly higher than Jews. These definitions, being abstractions, will shift over time as new people gain influence amongst national socialists. The definition of each race will shift as well as the ranking of the defined races amongst each other. And, of course, battle for influence amongst national socialists will involve a lot of arguments over the minutiae with insults of people who disagree being “race traitors.”

Collectivism is doomed to fail because it relies on poorly defined abstractions. Any system that ignores reality in favor of arbitrarily defined abstractions will implement policies that don’t work in the real world and will therefore eventually collapse.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 15th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Voluntary Association Strikes Again

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A white supremacist website, the Daily Stormer, ran into a hiccup yesterday. The website’s domain registrar, GoDaddy, informed the site administrators that it no longer wished to associate with them and that they had 24 hours to move to another registrar. So the administrators moved the domain name to Google and was then informed by Google that it had no desire to associate with them:

For years, the website Daily Stormer has promoted hatred against Jews, black people, LGBT people, and other minorities, making it one of the Internet’s most infamous destinations. But on Sunday, editor Andrew Anglin outdid himself by publishing a vulgar, slut-shaming article about Heather Heyer, a woman who was killed when someone rammed a car into a crowd of anti-racism protestors in Charlottesville.

The article prompted a response from the site’s domain registrar, GoDaddy. “We informed The Daily Stormer that they have 24 hours to move the domain to another provider, as they have violated our terms of service,” GoDaddy wrote in a tweet late Sunday night.

On Monday, the Daily Stormer switched its registration to Google’s domain service. Within hours, Google announced a cancellation of its own. “We are cancelling Daily Stormer’s registration with Google Domains for violating our terms of service,” the company wrote in an statement emailed to Ars.

As the article points out, the website isn’t likely to go offline because of this. Both Wikileaks and The Pirate Bay have a long history of having to jump from registrar to registrar to stay online. However, it is nice that GoDaddy and Google have the ability to decide that they no longer wish to associate with the Daily Stormer. But voluntary association is one of those things that people seem to love only when it benefits them or their causes. As soon as voluntary association clashes with people or their causes they quickly move to demand that the association be mandated by government.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 15th, 2017 at 10:30 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