Monthly Archives: November 2007

Government Assisted Property Theft in Boulder, Colorado

For anyone who owns property who believes that because they have paid for the property, paid the property taxes, and paid other applicable fees they have all the legal rights to their land, it might be a good idea to take a look at the state and local statutes. Don and Susie Kirlin, who bought two undeveloped lots in Boulder, Colorado some 23 years ago, were trying to decide whether to sell one or both lots or build their dream home. During this process, they had a dispute with neighbors Edith Stevens and Richard McLean about a fencing issue. Mr. McLean, who happens to be a former judge, decided to take things to the next level by taking advantage of a little known 16th Century legal doctrine from English common law called “adverse possession” in an attempt to legally steal the property from the Kirlins.

Stevens and McLean said in court that they knew the land was owned by someone else, but they used it anyway for access to their yard, to host parties and to store a wood pile.


The doctrine, incorporated into Colorado’s Revised Statutes, essentially states that if a person occupies the land owned by another person for long enough, without being challenged or given permission by the owner, the land becomes the property of the person most attached to its use.

In Colorado, the statutory time a property must be occupied before asserting adverse possession is 18 years, and even then, squatters have a heavy burden to prove that they meet all the requirements of the law. In the case of McLean and Stevens, Boulder District Court Judge James C. Klein found the couple had taken possession of their neighbor’s land in an “actual, adverse, hostile, under right of claim, exclusive and uninterrupted” manner — consistent with the language of the law.”

Klein signed an order Oct. 17 demanding that the Kirlins sign over the title to the 12-foot-by-3-foot, semi-circular trail — or about 34 percent of their lot — to McLean and Stevens.

So, if I pile some wood on a vacant lot, make a pathway, and treat it as my own property for 18 years with neither permission nor challenge from the owner, I could have legal rights to as much as 34% of his or her property without paying a cent in taxes let alone compensate the owner? What a deal!

Here we have a judge taking advantage of a couple using his knowledge and their ignorance of the law to steal from them. The Kirlins have since appealed the ruling and have found a great deal of moral support from the community.

This land grab has also received the attention of one state legislator, Rob Witwer, who wants to amend the law in the next session. “We don’t want to have a law on the books that is a vehicle for injustice that allows somebody who is proceeding in bad faith to use that law take somebody’s land,” Witwer explained. Witwer says he wants to amend the law rather than abolish it to protect people who, for example, in good faith accidentally build a home that goes over the property line by a few inches (which seems reasonable to me).

Let this be a lesson to property owners everywhere: if you see your neighbor using your land in any way without your permission, don’t try to be the nice guy, stop them immediately. You must act proactively and don’t count on the government to protect your rights for you. As so often is the case, government is not your friend.

Libetarianism Co-Option Watch

A lot of people are calling themselves libertarians these days, but it seems doubtful that many of them really believe in a consistent philosophy of individual liberty. When the word “libertarian” can be used to self-describe someone like Bill Mahr or Markos Moulitsas, it’s pretty much devoid of any meaning.

The latest example comes from Patrick Ruffini, who has a column up Hugh Hewitt’s blog discussing what he thinks libertarianism’s future is all about:

 Assuming Paul loses, where does small-l libertarianism go from here? His movement already did the smart thing by making peace with social conservatism. Libertarianism is no longer aligned with libertine stances on abortion and gay rights.

To become the ascendant ideology within the GOP, I suspect they’ll have to find a way to do the same thing on national security. The war on terror writ large is the one big thing social and economic conservatives agree on, and Ron Paul is vocally aligned against both.

Mainstream Republican libertarians might be gung-ho for Paul’s small-government idealism, they might adopt Glenn Reynoldsish skepticism of the homeland security bureaucracy, and even John McCain has lately made a thing of ripping the military-industrial complex, but there is no way — I repeat NO WAY — they will embrace Ron Paul if he continues to blame America for 9/11 and imply that America is acting illegally in defending itself around the globe. Even if they aren’t the biggest fans of the war, most people that are available for Ron Paul on the right are by temperament patriotic and will never vote for someone who sounds like Noam Chomsky.

When he’s analyzing elections, Ruffini is top-notch, but he’s also a conservative so it’s understandable that he’d be under the mistaken impression that just because Ron Paul opposes abortion rights and thinks that states should have the right to ban gay marriage that libertarians as a group have suddenly adopted the social conservative gospel on either of those issue. If he paid more attention to libertarians than he apparently has before Ron Paul ran for President, Ruffini would know that his positions on abortion and gay rights are not shared by most other people who call themselves libertarians.

In Ruffini’s mind, then, Ron Paul has succeeded because he melded libertarianism with social conservatism. Therefore, he seems to argue, if libertarians really want to succeed, they should adopt neo-conservative foreign policy.

But then it really wouldn’t be libertarianism would it ?

Libertarians can and do disagree on foreign policy issues, and there’s been more than enough criticism of what sometimes seems like a naive view of Islamic terrorism that comes from some corners of the movement. And there is plenty of disagreement with the idea that the United States should withdraw inside its borders and not worry about any nation that can’t directly strike us. But there’s absolutely nothing that neo-conservatives who think that invading Iraq was a good idea, even if it was badly executed, can offer that would be of value to libertarianism.

So what would Ruffini define as libertarianism ?

As someone who routinely called myself a libertarian prior to 9/11, here’s how I would square the circle: Absolute freedom within our borders, for our own citizens; eternal vigilance and (when necessary) ruthlessness abroad. For libertarian ideals to survive, they must be relentlessly defended against the likes of Islamic extremists

On some level, this almost sounds appealing. Absolute freedom at home ? Sounds good to mean. Eternal vigilance and ruthlessness in the face of our enemies ? Sounds fine too.

The problem comes when you remember that the “absolute freedom” that Ruffini talks about is tempered by social conservative and Christianist restrictions on personal liberty for those deemed to be engaging in “unacceptable” behavior and that our experiences since 9/11 have indicated that the price of vigilance all too often includes unacceptable intrusions into the civil liberties of American citizens and that ruthlessness often includes the use of methods of torture that one would have thought the civilized world had left behind long ago.

Ruffini is right that the American public may well react negatively to someone who says that the United States is to blame for 9/11. Additionally, opinion polls consistently show that the American public has a different view of the War on Terror than they do of the Iraq War.

But opposition to the Iraq War doesn’t necessarily equate to adoption of the foreign policy views of the guys over at, and there’s no need for libertarians to turn into Norman Podhoretz for the sake of winning elections.

Liberty and Racial Discrimination: Responding to David Duke

An earlier post of mine concerning members of Stormfront who are publicly supporting Ron Paul generated some very heated responses and a number of comments from people who are part of various movements that are generally tarred as being racist. Some of them made some very good points, and others raised questions that I think warrant an answer. This post is intended to acknowledge the good points and to answer those questions, especially the ones which were raised by David Duke.

The first point was made by commenter Drena who said,

I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to equate modern white supremacists with Nazism. The Nazis were anti-capitalist, protectionist, and in favor of central economic planning. There is nothing to stop a white supremacists from actively supporting laissez-faire capitalism. It is quite a leap to assume that because a person who thinks that his race is superior to another race, that he is in favor of Nazi economics. Nazis were economic fascists who just happened to be white supremacists. Modern day white supremacists may be more sophisticated than you think.

This is true, to a point. It’s quite possible to be a person who discriminates racially, but because you respect the rights of others and refuse to aggress against the people against whom you discriminate against. And certainly, I don’t have any problem with such forms of racial discrimination. I consider it to be stupid, but a person can chose whom he or she does business with, and I won’t try to prevent him or her from exercising his or her freedoms in ways that I consider stupid.

I say it is possible, but does not seem to happen much in practice. People who wish to practice racial discrimination often want to practice aggression against those whom they don’t approve of. Sometimes it’s out of an unwillingness to respect the rights of the people whom they don’t like, such as the Stormfront poster who claimed that the only thing certain black members of Congress were good for was target practice. Often, though, it’s the result of the economic disadvantage that people practicing racial discrimination place themselves in.

Discrimination Defined

At this point, I should digress to define discrimination. A lot of people have no understanding what it is, other than being told that it is bad. Discrimination is the act of judging someone by a quality they possess.

When is Discrimination Economically Beneficial?

Now, some discrimination is justified. For example, if a person wanted to hire someone to prepare a new translation of the 1001 Nights from Arabic into Swahili, he would almost certainly refuse to hire anyone who didn’t speak both languages. This form of discrimination against people who do not speak both Swahili and Arabic is entirely appropriate.

When is Discrimination Economically Harmful?

On the other hand some forms of discrimination are economically disadvantageous; for example, if the person refused to consider any candidate who wasn’t blond haired and blue eyed, he would be discriminating against people for reasons that have nothing to do with their abilities to do the job.

Why is this harmful?

Effects on the ‘victim’

For the “victim” of the discrimination, a dark-haired job applicant, the harm is quite obvious, since he cannot get the job. In fact, if such discrimination is endemic, he would have to settle for a job that does not fully take advantage of his wealth-creation potential, and thus his earnings will be less, his life less-fulfilled, etc. I should point out, though, that our dark-haired translator is not truly a victim; he has not been aggressed against – rather, an employer has merely declined to hire him.

Effects on the ‘oppressor’

But what harm to the employer?

Well, in my blatantly contrived example, he has limited his pool of applicants dramatically – whereas there might be fifteen applicants in the city who know both languages, there might only be one or two blond ones. The two guys can charge a much higher price for doing the work than they could command competing against a larger pool of talent. Additionally, the blond guys might not be the best in the field, and the employer could end up producing a very poor quality translation, and have to sell fewer books at a lower cost, reducing the return on his investment.

Effects on the ‘beneficiary’ of the discrimination

What about the blond Arabic/Swahili translator? Well, he might get a cushy job, but if the discrimination is widespread, the economic inefficiencies described above means that he will pay more for goods of less quality than he would in a society that did not discriminate against non-blonde people.

Using Government to Evade Economic Costs

The disadvantage suffered by those who practice racial discrimination was the historical impetus behind many Jim Crow laws. A racist who refused to hire black laborers had to pay a premium for his labor, while his less picky competitor would pay a discount for black workers and be able to undercut the racist. These people, unable to compete without sacrificing their cherished desire to racially discriminate often call for laws to prevent their competitors from taking advantage of the untapped pool of workers.

Note that this only applies if the racial discrimination is unwarranted. If one’s race truly is a determinant of one’s abilities, than the guy who uses race as a determinant in deciding whether to do business with someone could be making a great decision. In such cases, the person who refused to racially discriminate would be the one at a competitive disadvantage. I personally feel that racial discrimination is, generally, a dumb idea, as evidenced by the many laws passed to promote segregation and racial discrimination throughout history (and not just in the U.S.).

Now these laws were acts of aggression against innocent people. Primarily these laws targeted the freedom of association preventing people from conducting business with whomever they wish, for example when a school is forbidden from hiring black teachers., or a businessman is forbidden from hiring a black foreman or a bus company is required to segregate its customers by race.

Make no mistake, these laws are collectivist. In the end, they force people to trade goods and services not with the partners they would prefer, but with other people selected for them by the state. It really does not matter that the selection is performed impersonally.

The Difference Between Modern ‘White-Nationalism’ and German Nazism

Which now brings me to a point made by many respondents who posted comments to the effect that they were not “white supremacists” but rather “white nationalists”, and that their views diverged very radically from that of the German NDASP (the original Nazi party). » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Are We All Libertarians Now ?

As I noted yesterday, Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch wrote in yesterday’s Washington Post about the rise of a libertarian voting bloc, most notably found in the movement that has grown around the Ron Paul campaign.

The more interesting question, though, is whether the American public really is becoming more libertarian, and what that means for the country’s political future.

At Liberal Values, Ron Chusid argues that the ideas that are taking hold with the public resemble libertarianism, but aren’t of the doctrinaire variety that seems to motivate those attracted to Ron Paul’s campaign: 

Libertarianism, especially as advocated by Ron Paul, is not the only pro-freedom philosophy and in some cases does not advocate freedom as seen by most Americans. Most see freedom in terms of how government impacts their lives, not whether the Federal Reserve is ended or American returns to the gold standard. Americans who reject the social policies of the religious right will find many of the same faults in Ron Paul, who denies that the founding fathers envisioned a secular society characterized by separation of church and state and who claims that the founding fathers envisioned the United States as a Christian nation. Paul’s support for federal legislation banning so-called partial birth abortions and legislation to eliminate the legal distinction between a zygote and a fully developed human contradict his claims of both supporting freedom and supporting state’s rights.

Chusid also makes point that I’ve made myself several times, that Federalism and individual liberty are not necessarily the same thing:

The stress for state’s rights is also not what most Americans are looking for when seeking freedom. What matters is the relationship between the individual and government, regardless of level of government. Turning duties performed by the federal government over to the states might sometimes be good, but this is not necessarily a matter of greater freedom. Often it is the reverse. Paul’s lack of acceptance of the 14th Amendment, which extended Constitutional liberties from the federal government to the states, could result in less freedom. It is often necessary to protect the rights of the minority from the majority. It is far easier to gain a majority to restrict liberties in a state or local area as opposed to nationally

As I noted in the comments to this post, the post-Reconstruction history of the South, dominated as it was by Jim Crow and the often brutal suppression of the individual liberties of black Americans, was by it’s very nature entirely a creation of state law and the reluctance of the Federal Government to do what needed to be done to enforce the 14th Amendment.

That’s why, for people who want to restrict the role of government in their lives, the idea of simply transferring power from Washington to, say, Trenton, isn’t entirely attractive.  Additionally, with the Civil War now 140 years in the past, most Americans no longer think of themselves primarily as residents of the state in which they happen to reside but as citizens of the United States — the idea that their home state, assuming they even still live in their home state, deserves some special loyalty is alien to most Americans. Therefore, a political movement based primarily on “states rights” is unlikely to have the appeal that it did even back in the 1950s.

Chusid also notes that Americans haven’t fully accepting the libertarian message because they have come to believe that there are some areas where government is necessary. While I don’t agree with him entirely on this point, it’s hard to deny that this is at least partially true.

Chusid’s argument is similar to the one advance by Cato Institute scholar Brink Lindsey, who has argued that America’s creation of a mass affluence society has established trend that, on the whole, will lead to a political environment that is more skeptical of state intervention but accepts the role of government in the economy at some level.

It’s not a libertarian utopia, but it’s also not another Sweden and that, at least, is a start.

It’s Time For Separation of Marriage And State

Historian Stephanie Coontz has an interesting article in today’s New York Times examining the relationship between the state and the institution of marriage. As Coontz notes, the idea that all marriages must be licensed by the state is a relatively recent phenomenon historically speaking:

For 16 centuries, Christianity also defined the validity of a marriage on the basis of a couple’s wishes. If two people claimed they had exchanged marital vows — even out alone by the haystack — the Catholic Church accepted that they were validly married.

In 1215, the church decreed that a “licit” marriage must take place in church. But people who married illictly had the same rights and obligations as a couple married in church: their children were legitimate; the wife had the same inheritance rights; the couple was subject to the same prohibitions against divorce.

Not until the 16th century did European states begin to require that marriages be performed under legal auspices. In part, this was an attempt to prevent unions between young adults whose parents opposed their match.

That practice carried over to the American colonies and, later, the United States, where, as Coontz notes, marriage licensing laws quickly became a way to prevent socially disapproved inter-racial marriages:

By the 1920s, 38 states prohibited whites from marrying blacks, “mulattos,” Japanese, Chinese, Indians, “Mongolians,” “Malays” or Filipinos. Twelve states would not issue a marriage license if one partner was a drunk, an addict or a “mental defect.” Eighteen states set barriers to remarriage after divorce.

Additionally, the existence of a marriage license was used for another purpose; to determine how, if at all benefits ranging from Social Security benefits to employer-provided health care would be distributed. At the time, it made sense because, up until the 1970s , virtually all adults were married.

As Coontz says, though, such distinctions no longer make sense:

Possession of a marriage license is no longer the chief determinant of which obligations a couple must keep, either to their children or to each other. But it still determines which obligations a couple can keep — who gets hospital visitation rights, family leave, health care and survivor’s benefits. This may serve the purpose of some moralists. But it doesn’t serve the public interest of helping individuals meet their care-giving commitments.

Nor does it recognize the right of individuals to enter into relationships of their own choosing, for their own reasons.

Coontz ends her essay with the statement that we should consider returning to the way things were in the Middle Ages; let the churches decide what marriages they will recognize, and let individuals enter into whatever committed relationship they desire.

I said pretty much the same thing about a year ago:

Get rid of civil marriage licenses entirely. Let people decide for themselves what they believe about marriage and let them, if they wish solemnize that union in a church of their choice. We are hundreds of years past the day where the state was involved in religious affairs, it doesn’t need to be involved in this matter either.

One would think that this would be a solution to issues like gay marriage that would make everyone happy.

H/T: Jon Henke

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