A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Archive for the ‘Not So Crazy Libertarian Ideals’ tag

Defense and the State

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A common objection made by statists about anarchy is that the anarchists would quickly be conquered by a neighboring state. Apparently the only way to defend ourselves from criminal gangs is to have a criminal gang of our own. Except, as Robert Higgs points out, such objections are based on two flawed presumptions:

This thinking presumes at least two critical ideas: first, that defense of a population requires a government that rules that population; and, second, that if a government has the power to take over another country, it will do so.

As for the first assumption, it seems clear that a national government may prove an ineffective means of defense in any event, as many governments have demonstrated through the ages. Moreover, it is certainly conceivable that decentralized measures of defense, such as pervasive guerrilla groups operating more or less independently, might prove effective in preventing a foreign takeover.

As for the second assumption, the persistence of many small countries with weak governments, even in today’s world, certainly calls into question the idea that effectively defenseless countries cannot persist. Surely Brazil has the means to conquer Uruguay, but it does not do so. Surely Germany or France has the means to conquer Belgium, but neither does so. And so forth in regard to many other countries. Governments have various good reasons for refraining from such possible conquests.

The apocalyptic scenario predicted by statists should be playing out today since there are many states easily able to conquer their neighbors. Unless, of course, the statists are claiming that colored pieces of cloth hanging from poles have some kind of magical power to repel invaders. But even if that’s the case, each anarchist in an stateless society could fly their own piece of colored cloth to keep neighboring states off of their property.

The threat of military invasion as a justification for having a state may be one of the flimsiest arguments against anarchism. We have very good examples of a militarily inferior force holding a military superior force at bay in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries in the Middle East and Africa. Hell, the North Vietnamese showed the United States how successful guerrilla warfare is against a militarily superior force. Lacking a formal military doesn’t make a particular chunk of dirt more vulnerable to invasion. If anything, it makes that chunk of dirt more dangerous because there’s no centralized force to take out to break the inhabitant’s will to continue fighting.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 30th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Capitalism Cannot Give Consumers Taste

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It was brought to my attention that an Internet meme managed to nail a multi-million reality television show. This news didn’t surprise me because she became an Internet meme by being trashy and trashy television sells. Some people aren’t happy about this because they think everybody should watch highbrow television (i.e., whatever television show they like). But the market has spoken and while the market can’t give consumers taste, it does at least give them a choice:

According to reports, Danielle Bregoli, the 14-year-old girl who became a popular internet meme this year due to a failed intervention on the Dr. Phil show, has signed a deal for her own reality television show. On a personal level, there is much to find offensive in Bregoli’s fame, in spite of her obvious marketing prowess. She is, after all, internet-famous simply for her improper English, toxic personal behavior, and apparent lack of respect for anyone around her. On an economic level, however, her rise is an interesting example of how capitalism rewards the interests of the masses, regardless of the opinion of the cultural elite.

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Capitalism cannot give consumers taste, just as democracy cannot give voters wisdom. What capitalism does do, however, is give consumers choice — and creates the incentives necessary for producers to meet the desires of the people. Democracy simply offers the masses the ability to enforce the whims of the majority against the wishes of the minority. In America no one will be forced to watch a minute of a reality show about Danielle Bregoli, but should it find commercial success, its viewers will have the ability to shape American policy going forward.

A lot of people believe that their preferences should be everybody’s preferences. State socialism is the ultimate expression of their attitude because the State controls all means of production and therefore dictates what will and will not be provided to consumers. Whoever controls the State, in that case, controls what options consumers have.

Markets work the other way. Anybody can possess means of production and therefore bring options to consumers. Whether one wants media that forces a particular viewpoint down consumers’ throats, show epic space battles, or feature annoying teenage girls being jackasses, they can have their show under a market economy. So while I might judge your for your tastes, the market won’t.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 29th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Living Under a Criminal Enterprise

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Will you look at that, it’s a day ending in “y.” You know what that means, right? It means another Internet scam is afoot! This time the scam involves a flaw in Mobile Safari that was just patched yesterday:

The flaw involved the way that Safari displayed JavaScript pop-up windows. In a blog post published Monday afternoon, researchers from mobile-security provider Lookout described how exploit code surreptitiously planted on multiple websites caused an endless loop of windows to be displayed in a way that prevented the browser from being used. The attacker websites posed as law-enforcement actions and falsely claimed that the only way users could regain use of their browser was to pay a fine in the form of an iTunes gift card code to be delivered by text message. In fact, recovering from the pop-up loop was as easy as going into the device settings and clearing the browser cache. This simple fix was possibly lost on some uninformed targets who were too uncomfortable to ask for outside help.

Patch your shit, folks.

I had a friend comment that he couldn’t believe that anybody would be stupid enough to fall for this since law enforcement would never highjack a phone and demand payment in iTunes gift cards. Although demanding payment in iTunes gift cards would be unusual for law enforcement, the actions being taken by the scammers aren’t that different than many actions taken by law enforcement. The scammers used a threat in order to extort wealth from their victim just as law enforcement agents do. When people have lived their entire life worrying about being pulled over and threatened with violence if they don’t pay a fine for driving too fast or, worse yet, having their vehicle and cash confiscated under civil forfeiture laws, the idea that police officers would highjack your browser and demand payment probably doesn’t seem that odd.

We all live under a massive criminal enterprise known as the State. It has taught us that being extorted is just a way of life. With that in mind, it’s not too surprising to me that there are people who fall for these kinds of scams.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 28th, 2017 at 10:00 am

Getting What You Want Good and Hard

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Stories of genies often involve a poor sap coming across a genie’s lantern, being granted three wishes, and receiving exactly what they wished for. The twist is that their wishes are usually poorly thought out and therefore the fulfillment of their wishes brings despair instead of joy. This is why when somebody expresses a poorly thought out desire I often tell them that I hope that they get everything wish for and that they get it good and hard.

At one point in time the United States government had virtually no involvement in marriage. The lack of government involvement meant practices such as polygamy were legal. This didn’t sit well with many Christians of the time. Relying on the fact that most of the people in the government were also Christians, they made a wish for the government to get involved in the institute of marriage and that wish was granted:

The idea that the Constitution protects only what happens between a person’s ears isn’t novel. It has roots in a series of laws, and the Supreme Court decisions that upheld them, from 1862 through 1890. The goal at the time was to rein in a new and dangerous-seeming religious movement called Mormonism by criminalizing its most eccentric practice: polygamy. But by claiming the right to regulate the behavior of people of faith, mainstream believers set the stage for the modern political left to step in and regulate them—and to have 150 years’ worth of precedents on their side when they did it.

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In 1852, the LDS Church began openly defending plural marriage. This is what elevated the “Mormon problem” to the national stage. Beginning in the 1850s, Eastern newspapers were rife with references to polygamy as “evil,” “licentious,” a “brutalizing practice,” “repugnant to our sentiments of morality and social order,” and “shocking to the moral sense of the world.” The New York Times editorialized repeatedly for taking direct action against the Latter-day Saints. “The fact, if it be a fact, that the women are willing to live in polygamy, is no reason for our allowing them to do so,” the editors of the paper wrote in March 1860. What had begun as rival groups skirmishing over frontier resources came to be seen as an existential conflict: The soul of the whole country seemed to be at stake if the federal government allowed such behavior to continue.

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In December 1881, Sen. George F. Edmunds of Vermont introduced a law to make anyone who accepted the Church’s teachings on polygamy ineligible to vote, hold public office, or serve on a jury. Again, the editors of the Times endorsed the act’s passage: “It must be admitted that the Edmunds bill is a harsh remedy for polygamy. But then the disease in Utah has gone beyond remedies that are not more or less heroic.”

It passed, as did another law five years later disincorporating the Church and declaring that all Church property and assets above $50,000 would be confiscated by the government.

The Christians of the day got what they wanted but they didn’t think their wish through very well. When you grant government power over something that power is almost always permanent. What happens when your group is no longer the primary influencer of the government? You suddenly find those powers you granted it being used against your wishes.

Today hardcore Christians find themselves at odds with the government when it comes to marriage. The government has become more liberal and has begun allowing same-sex marriages. This hasn’t sat well with many Christians who not only believe that marriage can only be between one man and one woman but also believe the governments should enforce their belief.

Marriage isn’t unique in this regard. Whenever a government gets involved in something the advocates of it doing so cheer… until that government no longer sides with their beliefs. Suddenly they find the power they granted to the government being used against their beliefs but are powerless to do anything about it.

Always keep in mind that granting government more power will turn out poorly in the long run.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 27th, 2017 at 10:30 am

Uber’s Self-Defense Strategy

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Last week it was revealed that Uber developed a self-defense strategy against the State. Needless to say, this upset a lot of statists who were posting the #DeleteUber hashtag even harder than they were before. But those of us who don’t subscribe to the insanity that is statism can learn a lot from Uber’s example:

“SAN FRANCISCO — Uber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was being resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been outright banned.

The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities such as Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.

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Uber’s use of Greyball was recorded on video in late 2014, when Erich England, a code enforcement inspector in Portland, Ore., tried to hail an Uber car downtown as part of a sting operation against the company.

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But unknown to Mr. England and other authorities, some of the digital cars they saw in the app did not represent actual vehicles. And the Uber drivers they were able to hail also quickly canceled. That was because Uber had tagged Mr. England and his colleagues — essentially Greyballing them as city officials — based on data collected from the app and in other ways. The company then served up a fake version of the app populated with ghost cars, to evade capture.”

How brilliant is that? The company identified a significant threat, government goons who were working to extort the company, and then screwed with them, which made their job of extortion more difficult.

This is a strategy more companies need to adopt. Imagine a world where services such as Facebook, Gmail, Google Maps, iCloud, SoundCloud, and other online services identified government goons and refused to work for them. It would be a tremendous strike against the quality of life of many government employees. In fact, the hit might be powerful enough to convince them to seek productive employment.

Companies like Facebook and Google have built their fortunes on surveilling customers. Why not use that massive store of data for good by identifying government employees, or at least the regulators that make their lives difficult, and either screw with them or outright refusing to do business with them? There’s no reason anybody should be expected to do business with extortionists.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 7th, 2017 at 11:00 am

Boogeymen

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Watching politics is a lot like watching a train wreck. Part of you wants to look away but the other part of you is too fascinated by the death and destruction.

For me, one of the most entertaining aspects of politics is the boogeymen. Every politician and political group has boogeymen that are supposedly responsible for the nation’s woes. These boogeymen change whenever it’s politically expedient and when they do we’re told that we were never at war with the previous boogeymen but we were always at war with the new boogeyman.

Right now the Republicans and Democrats seem to have settled on their current boogeymen. The Republicans are blaming the nation’s woes on immigrants while the Democrats are blaming the nation’s woes on Russia.

Why do politicians and political groups always point to boogeymen? Because they need to deflect attention away from the people who have been screwing things up, the people who are actually in power in this nation, themselves. And if you talk to most people they’ll acknowledge that the politicians have screwed things up. But then they’ll totally ignore that sentiment when one of the boogeymen is brought up. Mention Russia around Democrats and they’ll fly into a frenzy about how Putin manipulated our election like some kind of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent. Mention immigrants around Republicans and they’ll foam and the mouth as they spew vitriol about the evil immigrants who built their deck and roofed their house being lazy and unwilling to work.

The reason politicians continue wrecking things but remain in power is because the average person is stupid enough to ignore their antics so long as they’re given something else to fear.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 3rd, 2017 at 10:00 am

Let the Hunger Games Begin

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The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts (MIA) had the pleasure of hosting a fight between some protesters and some people accused of being neo-Nazis:

A shoving match broke out in a most unlikely place, the typically serene Minneapolis Institute of Art, where three people who appeared to be neo-Nazis fought with several others in another group of activists, a witness said Sunday.

Security guards arrived at the mayhem Saturday afternoon on the museum’s third floor, broke up the confrontation and had one of the reputed neo-Nazis on the floor, said museum visitor Will Bildsten.

A friend of Bildsten’s said he saw punches thrown during the fracas.

Normally I wouldn’t share a random story about two groups getting into a scuffle in a museum. But the comments I’ve been hearing about this warrant some comment from me.

As you might expect, a lot of people have been cheering the activists who engaged the accused neo-Nazis. This is all part of the “Is it okay to punch a Nazi,” trend. One side believes violence is an unacceptable response to somebody exercising their free speech, regardless of how vile that speech is. The other side thinks people have a moral obligation to use force against anybody advocating fascism. It’s the second group I want to pan right now.

Why do I have a moral obligation to violently attack advocates of fascism but not advocates of Marxism–Leninism? In fact, many of the people demanding Nazis be violently attacked wherever they are are advocates of Marxism–Leninism. There is no meaningful difference between the two groups other than one is for national socialism while the other is for international socialism and they use different ways of labeling groups they want to wipe out.

Fascists want to wipe out Jews, Marxist–Leninists want to wipe out kulaks. Fascists want to wipe out people who aren’t white, Marxist–Leninists want to wipe out people who aren’t proletariats. Fascists want to wipe out opponents to fascism, Marxist-Leninists want to wipe out counter-revolutionaries. What’s especially interesting is that these different labels are often applied to the same groups of people. Jews are frequently labeled kulaks and bourgeois, for example.

All I’m asking for is some goddamn consistency. Those who are against using violence in response to any form of speech are already acting consistently. But if you believe it’s okay to punch a fascist then you should be equally fine with punching a Marxist-Leninist. Both philosophies are equally vile.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 28th, 2017 at 11:00 am

If Everything Sucked as Much as Public Schools

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The Foundation for Economic Education posted an excellent article explaining how absurd it would be to run grocery stores like public schools. But the best piece of information in the article is this:

One often hears that education is too important to leave to the whims of the market. Yet food is even more important; it’s a prerequisite before education can be considered. In spite of this, the (relatively) free market in food seems to work quite well.

Consumers get a wide variety at a low cost. Even people that have niche dietary requirements like gluten-free or vegan have products suited to them. And while complaints about the quality of public education are rampant, one rarely hears objections about the quality of the grocery stores. In the latter case, people don’t have to complain; they just take their business to someone who will serve them better.

Education isn’t even possible if one doesn’t have enough food to survive. Yet public education is a sacred cow. If you criticize public education or, worse, advocate for its complete elimination you are going to hear a lot of people accusing you of hating children. However, if you don’t advocate for socializing grocery stores nobody cares. In fact, everybody seems to be fine with grocery stores remaining private.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that grocery stores in the United States are private. If they weren’t they’d operate like the grocery stores in the former Soviet Union or current ones in Venezuela. You’d have to wait in line for hours just to find out that the store doesn’t have anything you need in stock.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 24th, 2017 at 10:00 am

What Do You Own

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When you purchase a computer do you own it? What about your cell phone? Or your automobile? At one time the answer to these questions was an absolute yes. Today, not so much:

Cars, refrigerators, televisions, Barbie dolls. When people buy these everyday objects, they rarely give much thought to whether or not they own them. We pay for them, so we think of them as our property. And historically, with the exception of the occasional lease or rental, we owned our personal possessions. They were ours to use as we saw fit. They were free to be shared, resold, modified, or repaired. That expectation is a deeply held one. When manufacturers tried to leverage the DMCA to control how we used our printers and garage door openers, a big reason courts pushed back was that the effort was so unexpected, so out of step with our understanding of our relationship to the things we buy.

But in the decade or so that followed those first bumbling attempts, we’ve witnessed a subtler and more effective strategy for convincing people to cede control over everyday purchases. It relies less—or at least less obviously—on DRM and the threat of DMCA liability, and more on the appeal of new product features, and in particular those found in the smart devices that make up the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).

I’ve annoyed many electrons criticizing the concept of intellectual property. The idea that somebody has a government granted monopoly on something simply because they were the first to receive a patent is absurd in my opinion. But we live with much more absurd ideas today. Due to the way software copyright and patent laws work, if a company loads software onto a device they can effectively prevent anybody from owning it. At most a buyer can acquire a limited use license for those devices.

Combining software copyright and patent laws with the Internet of Things (IoT) just amplifies this. Now there are a bunch of devices on the market that rely on continuous Internet access to the manufacturers’ servers. If the manufacture decides to drop support for the product it stops working. This wouldn’t be as big of an issue if laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) didn’t make it illegal for you to hack the device and load your own software onto it that allowed it to continue working.

Right now we’re dealing with relatively cheap IoT devices. If your $99 Internet connected thermostat stops working it sucks but it’s not something that is so expensive that it can’t be replaced. But what happens when IoT comes to, say, automobiles? What happens when critical functions on an automobile cease to work because the manufacturer decides to drop support for one of the Internet connected components. Suddenly you’re not talking about throwing away a $99 device but a machine that cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Although this scenario might sound absurd to some I guarantee that it will happen at some point if software copyright and patent laws continue to be enforced as they have been.

The Future is Awesome

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People don’t appreciate how awesome the future we live in today really is. Compare the life you live with the life lived by some of history’s wealthiest people:

If you were a 1916 American billionaire you could, of course, afford prime real-estate. You could afford a home on 5th Avenue or one overlooking the Pacific Ocean or one on your own tropical island somewhere (or all three). But when you traveled from your Manhattan digs to your west-coast palace, it would take a few days, and if you made that trip during the summer months, you’d likely not have air-conditioning in your private railroad car.

And while you might have air-conditioning in your New York home, many of the friends’ homes that you visit — as well as restaurants and business offices that you frequent — were not air-conditioned. In the winter, many were also poorly heated by today’s standards.

To travel to Europe took you several days. To get to foreign lands beyond Europe took you even longer.

Might you want to deliver a package or letter overnight from New York City to someone in Los Angeles? Sorry. Impossible.
You could neither listen to radio (the first commercial radio broadcast occurred in 1920) nor watch television. You could, however, afford the state-of-the-art phonograph of the era. (It wasn’t stereo, though. And — I feel certain — even today’s vinylphiles would prefer listening to music played off of a modern compact disc to listening to music played off of a 1916 phonograph record.) Obviously, you could not download music.”

While I spend a lot of time complaining about horrors statism has wrought upon us, we do live better today than anybody did in any point of history thanks to the wonders of the market. And since technology is cumulative the rate of advancement is even more rapid, which means our lives are improving faster than the lives of people in the past. For example, in my fairly short lifetime home Internet access went from nonexistent to dial-up to fiber directly into the home. The computing power available in my phone wasn’t available to the consumer market for any price when I was young. Even simple toys, such as Nerf guns, improve a lot since my childhood. Kids today have electrically powered fully automatic Nerf guns, something young me could only dream of. Although various diseases such as cancer are still a scourge our chances of surviving it have increased significantly.

While there’s a lot of terrible things going on in this world don’t forget that our present is an overall great time to be alive.

Written by Christopher Burg

February 22nd, 2017 at 10:00 am