Monthly Archives: June 2009

BB&T One Of First To Return TARP Funds

BB&T, a regional southern bank, is a bit of a darling of the libertarian movement. After Kelo, they made it bank policy to not lend money towards projects utilizing eminent domain. Co-contributor Jason Pye suggested a desire to open an account there after BB&T began donating money to UNC-Greensboro to found a pro-capitalism and pro-markets program that is founded in morality as well as economics.

It was sad, of course, when I reported late last year that BB&T had decided to take TARP money. I pointed out that if the rules have changed and the government’s picking winners and losers, it’s possible that they had a fiduciary duty to their shareholders to take the money. But I was still sad.

So I’m much happier to see that BB&T is leading the charge to pay back the TARP funds. There are many banks who I believe are simply trying to get out of TARP due to the additional regulation imposed by the government, but BB&T’s previous commitment to principle is enough to give them the benefit of the doubt that it was done in earnest.

Hat Tip: Reason Hit’N’Run

This is Government

According to the Iranian government, the person dying below was a terrorist. No doubt all the people walking around her in apparent unconcern for there were fellow terrorists, and the people she was terrorizing were outside camera range.

She is being called Neda. The person who uploaded the video to Youtube claims that he was nearly half a mile away from the demonstrations when a sharpshooter shot a teenage girl standing nearby with her father. Within a few seconds, she was dead, her eyes turn to the camera before being obscured by the pools blood that pour out of her mouth and nose.

A student at Kent State University gunned down by U.S. government troops.

A student at Kent State University gunned down by U.S. government troops.

Many people are arguing that this is the sort of thing that democracy is supposed to prevent. Of course, democracies also shoot people opposed to the government’s policies.

Why? because government, at its heart, is an organization that uses force to get its way. It is incapable of limiting its violence to socially beneficial causes like apprehending murderers. At some point, it points a gun at a group of people and demands they submit, and anyone who refuses gets a bullet.

This is government. Over there or over here, it is the same; the few exploit the many, and they are ready to use beatings, kidnappings and murder to get their way.

So who are the real terrorists?

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.

Symbolic Victories Are Often Real Losses

Judging from his statements and the note he left in his car, James von Brunn walked into the Holocaust Museum believing that he was about to strike a blow against Jewish world hegemony and Federal gun-control.  Even by his twisted standards, his actions were counterproductive. His plan was to massacre people visiting and working at the holocaust museum, and to symbolically harm Jews, whom he believed were looting non-Jewish people through their control of the government and the financial industry among others.

Let us examine, though, the effects of von Brunn’s attack.  He murdered a security guard, Stephen T. Johns (who, it should be noted, had courteously opened the door let in the man who would murder him).  Within hours, the security guards who shot von Brunn down were rightly being lionized, and by extension, the entire apparatus of security-guards-cum-metal-detectors that have come to characterize the modern U.S.   People started agitating for further limitations on weapons ownership, freedom of speech and against organizations that agitate for freeing people from government oversight.  There was a massive outpouring of sympathy for Jews.  Two days after von Brunn’s attack, about the time doctors were concluding that he would survive his wounds, the Holocaust museum was open for business. No doubt within a week they will have hired Stephen Johns’ replacement.

In other words, from von Brunn’s perspective he lost: he suffered life threatening wounds, incited in people a hatred of his movement, shot an easily replaced, ‘expendable’ guard and shut a museum down for one day while giving it lots of free publicity.

Much as we libertarians abhor murderous savages like von Brunn, we should take note of the effects of his attack.  His attack is one of many that all demonstrate an important rule of resistance against the state.  Like John Brown’s attack on Harper’s Ferry,  the assassination of McKinley, and countless other acts of symbolic violence, von Brunn’s attack discredited his movement and increased sympathy for his opponents.

Hardly a month goes by without some fellow libertarian radical posting a comment to the effect that the second amendment is what protects the other rights supposedly enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, or writing cliched statements containing the phrase “ballot box, soap box, ammo box”.  In the 2008 primary season, Ron Paul supporters reveled in their symbolic victory after they chased Rudy Giuliani off the weather-deck of a ferry.

While such chest-thumping is very satisfying, and satisfies a psychological need to feel powerful, it  is usually a losing strategy;  any action that swings sympathy towards our opponents will make us weaker.  The psychology of crowds is fairly well understood.  Crowds hate the weak.  Paradoxically, crowds also envy the powerful. They want security and to live free of fear and uncertainty.  They don’t care about philosophy, and their conception of justice and morality is a crude, instinctual one that is the product of human evolution.

Turning the mob in a pro-freedom direction requires a combination of the following:

  • Inciting in people a hatred and contempt of the political classes and the bureaucrat and police who do their bidding.
  • Making people aware of how badly the political classes are ripping them off.
  • Developing institutions that perform social functions that do not use coercion to acquire resources.
  • Encouraging people to rely on themselves and those institutions.

Most violent/semi-violent protests incite in people a fear of the protestors.  The people then turn to the government to protect them from the scary protestors.  When the protests or political actions or symbolic acts of vandalism don’t accomplish any meaningful change, the net result is a stronger, more powerful government that has been given permission to suppress the movement that the symbolic act was meant to promote.

Successful protest movements like the black civil rights movement succeeded precisely because the symbolic acts encouraged people to identify with the protesters.  When the police set german shepherds on black people walking in orderly columns, the people seeing the images and video saw the police as the dangerous mob and the protesters as being the civilized, non-threatening party to the conflict.

It is very important that we who advocate for freedom keep this in mind; disorderly or scary behavior turns people against us.  Freedom is civilized. Commerce is peaceful. Free markets are bountiful.  Let us  allow the government an uncontested claim on the mantle of civilization-threatening barbarity it has worked so hard to earn.

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.

I Don’t Ask Congress To Applaud Iranian Protesters, But I’ll Do It Myself

Congress has voted to condemn the actions of the Iranian government, and as Reason points out, Ron Paul in typical contrarian fashion is the sole “no” vote:

I rise in reluctant opposition to H Res 560, which condemns the Iranian government for its recent actions during the unrest in that country. While I never condone violence, much less the violence that governments are only too willing to mete out to their own citizens, I am always very cautious about “condemning” the actions of governments overseas. As an elected member of the United States House of Representatives, I have always questioned our constitutional authority to sit in judgment of the actions of foreign governments of which we are not representatives. I have always hesitated when my colleagues rush to pronounce final judgment on events thousands of miles away about which we know very little. And we know very little beyond limited press reports about what is happening in Iran.

I applaud Ron Paul for taking his usual principled stand. Our Congress does not need to be spending their time issuing Resolutions toothless moralistic statements about America, much less other countries. Even if I were to retreat from my cautious anarchist tendencies and accept that Congress actually deserves real responsibilities, that responsibility is to legislate, not preach.

But a part of those anarchist tendencies is Heinlein’s rational anarchy. All actions are ultimately morally within the hands of individuals. Immaterial of laws or society, it is the individual who is morally responsible for acting rightly or wrongly.

So I don’t ask Congress to speak on Iran. Taking a chance to personalize H Res 560, let me do it myself:

Resolved, That Brad Warbiany —

  1. expresses his support for all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law;
  2. condemns the ongoing violence against demonstrators by the Government of Iran and pro-government militias, as well as the ongoing government suppression of independent electronic communication through interference with the Internet and cellphones; and
  3. affirms the universality of individual rights and considers any government which infringes upon those individual rights to be illegitimate.

Iran is at a very important point. In a mere matter of hours, this may come to a head. The mullahs have signaled that they will resort to violence with a call that any who continue protesting “will be held responsible for the consequences and chaos.” Many people in Iran have said that they’re going to protest anyway.

As I write this in California, it is 10:15 AM in Iran. Much will happen in the next few hours. To those Iranians who are not sure what will happen next, I can only wish you safety and success. I’m not sure you’ll have the former, but if you don’t I at least hope you achieve the latter.

Or Else We Will Be Very, Very Angry With You!

Apparently the UN has said it has the right to stop any North Korean ship suspected of smuggling arms. Or, not really… We have the right to ASK them to stop. And if they don’t stop, they will be in deep trouble with the UN. How deep? They might be angry and write a letter pass a resolution!

Caution: Language NSFW

As Bruce from QandO asks:

Reading this carefully, it seems the UN has authorized them to “query” a NoKo ship and ask to inspect it. NoKo can say “no”. If NoKo says no, we can demand they go to the nearest port for inspection. But again, all the NoKo ship has to do is say “no” and that ends it. Result: Strong report sent to UN. Sounds more like punishment for those who have to fill out the report to the UN than NoKo.

Where else in the universe are such steps considered “tough” besides the UN?

So you’re on notice, Kim Jong Il. Instruct your ships to stop when asked. If you don’t, we will be very, very angry with you.

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