Author Archives: Eric

Opening up the Cigar Private Locker

I’m in the middle of fall in the Pacific Northwest. Which means that it’s mostly rainy and grey … and my opportunity to get out and smoke a great cigar is pretty slim. Last week and next week are travel weeks for me and that makes it even more difficult. You have to take advantage of any break in the rain this time of year, but if you’re on the road that’s difficult. Fortunately, Saturday was a beautiful fall day in the Northwest. It was cold, but crisp and clear.

The day was so beautiful and the opportunity so prime, that I had to break out a cigar from my the bottom shelf of my humidor. The top shelf, easy to get to and visible through the glass top, has my sort of daily smoking, less prime cigars. The bottom shelf has the Montecristo Churchills and Oliva Serie V in it. And something very special, as well. I figured today called for the Graycliff Casillero Privada. I bought a mazo of 10 of them a couple months ago. They’ve been in the humidor ever since.

I love Graycliff cigars. And these promised to be special. Casillero Privada, in Spanish, means Private Locker. These are the cigars that the famous Graycliff hotel in Nassau keeps locked away for their VIP guests. But they released a few mazo’s to be sold publicly earlier this year and when they did I grabbed one without hesitating.

And I promised the TLP crew a cigar review. Perfect excuse to light one of these guys up and see if it lives up to expectations.


Bottom line up front in case this post is tl;dr for you …. This is an absolutely fantastic cigar, but may not be approachable for a novice. If you haven’t smoked much, I would recommend choosing something else. But if you are a cigar enthusiast who enjoys robust, complex, premium smokes then this is the cigar for you.

On to the review

Cigar Overview

This is a Graycliff Casillero Privada PG 5×52. At first sight, the cigar is decent sized with a shaggy foot, giving it a rustic “old school” appearance. The wrapper is dark brown, lightly oily and looks like old leather. It had no obvious cracks, bubbles or other blemishes. The seams in the wrapper and cap are very tight, almost invisible and very few veins are apparent. The unlit aroma was of exotic spices, pepper and black tea, with an underlying barnyard odor that I suspected would turn to a very deeply earthy aroma once lit. The cigar is clearly rolled by hand and does not use a form for assistance. It is not as dense and firm as a form rolled, mass manufactured cigar would be.

Initial Impressions

The Cigar

Lighting the cigar, in spite of the shaggy foot, was easy. I use a Bugatti lighter with 3 jets, which allows for a wide, even lighting. Toasting the end of a cigar is easy with the Bugatti.


As I said, it lit easily and very uniformly. The first taste was medium bodied and complex, the smoke was cool, the flavor was peppery with a bit of earthiness. The draw was very easy and smooth. The cigar produces a lot of smoke and burns quite clean. First impression was excellent.

First Impressions

I’m drinking Bulleit Rye and soda and this seems like a good choice to start. The rye, with its spice, fruit and hints of maple syrup sweetness should really compliment the earthy, peppery cigar that I’m anticipating.

Bulleit Rye and soda

During the first 1/4 of the cigar I found that the initial complexity was not a fluke. It kept building, with notes of leather in addition to the spice and earth. It is very robust, definitely not for the faint of heart. Within the first inch all sense of the barnyard is gone, replaced with a very lovely earthiness that I am really enjoying. The cigar burns quite evenly and draws very smoothly.

Middle of the Cigar

Mid Cigar

As I work my way into the cigar I find that I was right, the rye and soda is a great choice and really compliments the dry leathery notes in the cigar. The ash is white and even and one inch of ash is not a problem whatsoever. As I move further into the cigar more becomes apparent. Toasted nuts, leather, earthy, peppery. This cigar is very masculine. At the halfway mark the pepper has built to the point that I am getting spice in my nose.

Moving into the second half of the cigar it still burns cool and even and the draw remains smooth. Hints of oak and vanilla begin to appear and the the leather and pepper build even further. This cigar is really amazing. I have yet to find anything negative about it. This cigar is clearly very special, among the elite of cigars.

Final Impressions

In the last 1/3 of the cigar, if it is possible, this cigar blossoms even more. It becomes very robust and much more complex and full bodied. I can taste earthiness overall, but quite a bit of spice, pepper, toasted nuts, leather and coffee, even a bit of cane sweetness. It is clearly hand rolled. The cigar is light in the hand, almost fragile feeling compared to cigars rolled in forms and made in factories. Clearly it is not a mass made cigar. The head has gotten slightly soggy, but not enough to detract from the overall experience.


Graycliff Casillero Privada

First, the score. This cigar absolutely deserves a 95 or 96 score. Definitely on top of the game. This is a cigar for a smoker that appreciates being challenged. Matching it with the right drink is imperative. A bourbon or rye will be a much better choice than wine or a scotch, where the alcohol will vie with the cigar rather than compliment it. I cannot recommend the Casillero Privada highly enough. It really is among the great cigars I have ever had. I have 9 more in the humidor and will be enjoying them over the coming years, seeing how they age and improve over time.

Avelino Lara

Avelino Lara was one of the greats of the cigar industry. Born in 1921, he was the creator of Cohiba and contributed materially to the Davidoff line of cigars. At one point, Lara was the personal roller for Fidel Castro. After retiring in 1996, he moved to Nassau. There he rolled a few cigars for guests at the Graycliff hotel. This did so well that the Graycliff and Lara joined forces to create the Graycliff line of cigars, which are considered by most to be among the finest in the world. As I understand it, the Casillero Privada was the continuation of the original starting point at Graycliff, where Lara was just rolling cigars here and there for guests. After the Graycliff line was started, Lara’s hand-rolled cigars were kept in a private locker, a casillero privada, for the VIP guests.

So, if you want to smoke a cigar that celebrates the heritage and craft of one the greatest cigar makers of all time, this is the one.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

What An Odyssey

That title seemed appropriate, considering that this is the 2001st blog post written on The Liberty Papers. In a way it is also appropriate that I am the one who is writing it.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Eric, the guy who thought it would be pretty cool to create this blog 2 years ago. I would venture to guess that a lot of you that will read this post don’t actually know me. I haven’t actively blogged since May, 2006 when I stopped writing publicly.

In the intervening 18 months (my goodness, it’s been that long already??) I’ve been quite successful in my new position. I’ve even had the opportunity to write and be published in commercial publications, although the writing is all related to my profession rather than politics. You can get an idea of what I’ve been up to with a quick Google search, if you’re interested.

Okay, enough about me. Why the heck am I writing this post if I no longer actively blog? Simple, really. Two years ago today I wrote the first post on The Liberty Papers. When I mentioned that to Brad and the other contributors, and suggested someone write a post about that, Brad asked if I would write it. After giving it some thought, I decided I could.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s something to commemorate two years of The Liberty Papers.

We’ve written 2,000 posts, had over 16,000 comments and more than 650,000 unique visitors in the past 24 months. Our visitors come from all over the world. In the past we’ve had folks visit from China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, among other countries that are not exactly friends of liberty and free speech. Our readers and commenters range from the anonymous to such famous folks as David Friedman and David Duke*. We’ve been linked by any number of famous bloggers, including Glenn Reynolds, Lew Rockwell’s blog and many more than I have time to track down right this second.

Now, that hardly seemed likely during the first few months that this blog existed. The original group of contributors and I had much grander ambitions than we were actually living up to at the time. My personal blog, Eric’s Grumbles Before The Grave, was performing much better than TLP was. Most of the site’s traffic was being driven here by Brad, Doug, Chris and I. We were barely getting 2,000 visitors a month and the comments and external links were few and far between. So, how did we go from there to here? A lot of hard work, to be honest. We write, on average, 3 posts a day. We read, comment and link to other blogs and pay attention to topics that matter to our audience. And that has paid off dramatically.

Today this blog is one of the top listings on Google News for Ron Paul and sometimes Rudy Guliani. It is linked by hundreds of blogs worldwide and draws thousands of readers every day. Discussions in the comment sections often run into hundreds of comments and the range of thought, debate and discussion is very broad.

The range of the contributors is broad as well. From anarchist to limited government, practically all of the ideas that fit within the big tent of libertarianism (the political philosophy, not the political party) are represented here. This blog definitely lives up to what I hoped it might become. And I hope it provides a place for dynamic, dramatic and lively discourse on freedom and liberty for many visitors and participants for many years to come.

Thank you Adam, Brad, Chris, Doug, Jason, Kevin, Mike, Nick, Robert, Simon, Stephen, Tarran and UCrawford for all the work you do to keep this place alive and well. A bit of thanks to them is definitely in order, not one of them receives any compensation other than personal gratification for their work on this blog. Thank you to the many thousands of people who have stopped by and left a comment (or more than one). I can’t wait to write another self-congratulatory post 2 years from now! I can hardly wait.

* Update on 11/23/07. Just to clarify, based on an erroneous conclusion by a commenter, I am not proud to associate with David Duke at all. I do think it highlights the reach and scope of this blog that someone like David Duke will come and comment here. That’s not the same as being proud to associate with him. I would prefer not to have anything to do with him at all.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

So Long, Farewell, Adieu

As mentioned on Eric’s Grumbles a few weeks ago, my time in the blogosphere is coming to an end. Over the past 18 months I’ve had a tremendous experience as an amateur writer and political commentator.

Of everything I’ve done, the thing I’ve enjoyed the most is creating this blog and the Life, Liberty, Property blog community. They’ve been great chances to get to meet a lot of other great bloggers who have similar political and philosophical beliefs. And to interact with those folks and a lot of commenters. Even the commenters who are consistently negative or reflexively opposed to anything that doesn’t fit their ideal were fun and interesting.

Brad will be taking over The Liberty Papers. He’s a great writer and a lot of fun to interact with. I’m sure he’ll keep this going and The Liberty Papers will do well, by whatever definition is important to Brad and the other contributors.

Because of the position I’m moving on to in my professional life, I can’t continue to blog. But I plan to continue reading blogs when I have time. Blogs are, as I’ve said before, the modern pamphlet. And the pamphleteers of an earlier era were instrumental in bringing about the single greatest event to occur in the advancement of liberty and individualism yet. So, don’t despair fellow pamphleteers, keep working at it and you can change the world too.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

May Day Remembrance

Stop by Catallarchy and check out their May Day theme. Like last year, their theme is the massive destruction, loss of life and liberty and slavery of state socialism. A round up of everything on Catallarchy for today is in this post.

Welcome to Catallarchy’s annual Day of Remembrance. Contrary to the promises of ideology, nations whose governments pledged to create a workers’ paradise usually became places of rampant slave labor. The plight of the less fortunate became even less fortunate. Today, we chronicle a small part of their lives.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

The War on Drugs

I’ve never been a proponent of The War on Drugs™. For quite some time, a decade probably, I’ve been actively opposed to The War on Drugs. I’ve long believed that it is horribly corrosive of our individual rights and liberties, destructive to the relationship between the government and the citizens and creates an incredibly powerful, influential and violent set of criminal organizations. To make matters worse, it is not a “war” that can be won. This “war” is as ultimately unwinnable as the war against alcohol, aka Prohibition, was. It is unwinnable because the average citizen recognizes that it is nothing more, or less, than an attempt by do-gooding Mrs. Grundies and power hungry government bureaucrats to legislate what we may, or may not, do with our own bodies. If you want more thoughts along those lines, check out our full War on Drugs category on this blog.

This post is not intended to convince you of the ultimately loss of The War on Drugs™. Nor is it intended to convince that dictating what I may do with my own body is unconscionable if we are possessed of the rights to life, liberty and property. This post is intended to detail just a few, of the many, incredibly destructive events that occur because of this war. The destruction of our rights by agents of the government and the growth of massively powerful and violent criminal drug organizations. And one last thing to point out. Even a government as oppressive, intrusive and anti-liberty as the Soviet Union’s was could not win the Drug War. Keep that in mind as you read this. More government resources won’t help. In fact, given the horrific levels of addiction to alcohol in the old Soviet Union, they will probably make matters worse, not better.

Lest anyone think I’m simply a libertine who wants to get high, think again. It’s quite clear that these drugs are bad things, destructive of mind and body. The problem is, who gets to choose whether I will destroy my mind and body with cocaine? I’m continuously amazed that the same people who believe a woman should be able to choose whether to get an abortion, or not, the same people who believe in a “right to die”, are people who think it should be illegal for me to choose to smoke marijuana. Either my body is my own to do with as I please, or it is not.

By now many of us have heard of Eugene Siler, in Tennessee, but I think many more of us have not. Eugene Siler is part of the dregs of society, no doubt about it. Illiterate, poor, small time drug dealer in the past. Not a particularly nice guy. Although he’s certainly not as bad a person as some of the folks locked up in Guantanamo right now. Why mention that? Well, just keep in mind that Eugene has never tried to blow someone up because of their skin color, nationality or religion. Nor has he conspired with others to do anything like that. Or taken up arms against the US directly. Or any of the other things folks in Guantanamo have done. Yet, 5 employees of Tennessee law enforcement agencies, including 3 sworn police officers tortured and beat him for hours. They attempted to force him to sign a voluntary consent to search and seizure of his property. They hit him with their fists and guns. They threatened to use electric torture on his genitals. They threatened his wife and children. They abused him so badly that he was reduced to tears, begging them to stop. They tortured him far worse than any inmate at Guantanamo.

Think this might be made up? Fortunately for Eugene, his wife hid a tape recorder in the house and captured it all on tape for the permanent record. Want to see how your law enforcement deals with people they are involved with the drug trade? Read this transcript of Eugene Siler’s ordeal. Then compare it to Guantanamo. Which one should outrage you more?

Think this is just a fluke? You obviously didn’t hear about Cory Maye. Cory was sentenced to be executed after shooting a police officer who executed a no knock warrant of his home as part of a drug raid. Cory was not suspected of having anything to do with drugs, had no drugs in his possession and his sole crime was defending his home after someone broke in without identifying themselves. You might expect, considering those circumstances, that there would be no sentence, or a light one, not the death penalty.

That’s not enough? How about the violence that is a daily part of life in Mexico because of the power that we provide to drug cartels. If you happen to have a subscription to The Wall Street Journal, read this editorial. If not, here’s a few details for you from the recent past.

The problem is particularly acute for America’s southern neighbor. Drug violence is spiraling throughout Mexico and innocents are paying the ultimate price. One target city is Nuevo Laredo where eight months ago Mexican federal authorities arrived to quell unprecedented cartel violence. Today the murder rate is up; the Mexican general who was in charge of restoring order has gone missing; the news media has suffered atrocious assaults, including a grenade attack; and there is concern that the government’s anti-drug units have been infiltrated.

Last month four federal intelligence officers were gunned down in the middle of the day near a school. That’s about the same time some 600 federal police were sent to the city as reinforcements.

The rest of Mexico is under siege as well. In February the police chief of an upscale district of Monterrey was gunned down. An April 21 report in the Los Angeles Times captured the attitude of the drug lords: “‘So that you learn to respect,’ read a message scrawled on a red sheet attached to a Guerrero state government building in Acapulco, where passers-by in the early morning hours discovered the heads of former Police Commander Mario Nunez Magana, 35, of the Municipal Preventive Police, and another man, who was not identified.”

And just how do you expect Mexicans to build their own country to the point where illegal immigration to the US is no longer the best option for the average Mexican when their country is overrun with this sort of violence. The reality is that many Latin American countries are at the mercy of drug cartels, including Mexico. Political observers expect drug cartels to have enough money and influence to be a force in the upcoming Mexican elections.

If all of this doesn’t sound like something out of 1920’s Prohibition to you, it should. And this is precisely why we ended Prohibition. It never stopped anyone from drinking. It simply made them into criminals. And provided the Mafia with obscene amounts of money. And law enforcement with obscene amounts of power and corruption.

80 years ago, Ludwig von Mises wrote in Liberalism:

It is an established fact that alcoholism, cocainism, and morphinism are deadly enemies of life, of health, and of the capacity for work and enjoyment; and a utilitarian must therefore consider them as vices. But this is far from demonstrating that the authorities must interpose to suppress these vices by commercial prohibitions, nor is it by any means evident that such intervention on the part of the government is really capable of suppressing them or that, even if this end could be attained, it might not therewith open up a Pandora’s box of other dangers, no less mischievous than alcoholism and morphinism.

The intervening years of Prohibition, first against alcohol, and then against every drug we don’t like except alcohol, have proved Mises right beyond his most pessimistic. The Supreme Court has ruled that police officers may use drug sniffing dogs to check your car after stopping you for speeding, with no reason to believe that you have drugs in your car. Special task forces to “combat drugs” have been set up that lead to corruption and degradation of our law enforcement officers. The story from Tennessee involved police officers assigned to such a task force. It has led to the seizure and sale of private property by the state even when there is no conviction for any criminal activity. Such seizure is a civil action, not a criminal action. It has led to the death sentence for a man who was only defending his home against unknown intruders in the middle of the night. The War on Drugs has completely corrupted our neighboring nation to the South. It has led to the creation of a Federal law enforcement agency which has only one mission, to fight the Drug War. Prohibition creates so much power and money that terrorist organizations have become involved in the drug trade. It has led to gun battles on the streets of our cities.

And every additional dollar spent on fighting drugs has done nothing to stop the violence and the corruption. In fact, although violent crime per capita has dropped considerably in this country, it has increased in the inner cities where drugs and drug gangs fight their battles for turf and profits. The use of drugs and alcohol has increased, not decreased. The import and sale of drugs to this country has increased ten fold since the 1950’s. Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, Panama and Colombia are virtually dominated by drug cartels.

This is a war we cannot win. Worse, it is a war we should not fight.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Another Quote on Taxation

Before the amendment was passed allowing the income tax, Richard Byrd said:

“A hand from Washington will be stretched out and placed upon every man’s business; the eye of the federal inspector will be in every man’s counting house…. The law will of necessity have inquisical features, it will provide penalties, it will create complicated machinery. Under it, men will be hauled into courts distant from their homes. Heavy fines imposed by distant and unfamiliar tribunals will constantly menace the taxpayer. An army of federal inspectors, spies, and detectives will descend upon the state.”
— Richard E. Byrd
(1888-1947) Polar explorer, Virginia House Speaker
Source: 1910, predicting the consequences of a federal income tax

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Quotes from Reagan

Ronald Reagan had a way of asking important questions in ways that people understood. Here’s three on the government’s power to tax.

Are you entitled to the fruits of your labor or does government have some presumptive right to spend and spend and spend?

Clearly George W. Bush has not listening to the Reagan/Goldwater wing of the Republican Party. Just because he cut taxes doesn’t mean we don’t have to pay for the spending. It just means we are deferring pay for it to another day.

Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? … Today in our country the tax collector’s share is 37 cents of every dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp.

Don’t you ever wonder why the actually wealthy folks in this country don’t want to get rid of progressive taxation?

The federal government has taken too much tax money from the people, too much authority from the states, and too much liberty with the Constitution.

The best one sentence summation of the Federal government from 1936 to the present I’ve ever read!

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Thinking About Gun Laws

I’ve been doing some more thinking about gun laws. In the course of that, by sheer luck apparently, I was sent a quote that makes an interesting counterpoint to the usual Classic Liberal theory about the right to keep and bear arms. If you don’t believe all us pro-gun nuts about the reason why people should own weapons, perhaps you will believe one of the worst anti-liberty folks of the 20th century. Without further ado, two quotes on guns from Hitler and Jefferson.

“The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed the subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty.”
— Adolf Hitler

“No free man shall ever be de-barred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain their right to keep and bear arms is as a last resort to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”
— Thomas Jefferson

I would go so far as to say that most politicians, law enforcement, etc. who want to prevent gun ownership are anti-liberty, which is why they want to take guns away.

One more thing to consider. Hubert Humphrey, not exactly known for his conservative or libertarian views, said the following:

“Certainly one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of citizens to keep and bear arms…. The right of citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America but which historically has proven to be always possible.”
— Hubert H. Humphrey
(1911-1978) US Vice-President, US Senator (D-MN)
Source: “Know Your Lawmakers,” Guns magazine, February 1960, p.6

Update: One more interesting quote. It should make anyone go “what the …. ?” If you think gun control laws are a good idea, you just might want to consider who agrees with you and why.

“A system of licensing and registration is the perfect device to deny gun ownership to the bourgeoisie.”
— Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Carnival of Liberty XXXVI

Carnival of Liberty XXXVI is up at The Unrepentant Individual. It looks like, as we’ve come to expect, there are lots of things to read. Some that we will agree with and some that we won’t. Drop by and take a look!

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball


I read Rocket Jones regularly. His zombie pics are a hoot, I love reading about his rocketry and we share a love of science, space exploration and rocket ships. When Ted recently posted a political entry, I pretty much blew coffee through my nose laughing. Not only that, he gave me some insight into the whole Dubai-Port thing that I hadn’t really considered before. Check out Ted’s Evil I tell you, pure eeeevil! for more gems like this one:

To all those cheering the “defeat” of President Bush on his stupid idea to let Dubai run American seaports, I have only one thing to say:

Dubya just made you his bitch.

Ted, you owe me a new laptop screen! Or a zombie pic.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Here’s Why

Here’s why so many of us don’t trust the government. It’s not just about their ability to be efficient. It’s not just about the morality of taking my wealth at gunpoint and using it for something I wouldn’t agree with if I had any choice. It’s about, as has been pointed out here and here, the fact that the government just can’t do what it sets out, in its wisdom, to do. As we find out on Slashdot, among other sources, the government can’t even keep its secret agents secret. They were easily discovered on Google (naturally). And yet we are supposed to, somehow, believe that they can provide for our healthcare, our pensions, our safety and so much more. And clearly, governments do a wonderful job with all of these things. Now, try to find out, using Google, the names and locations of the security staff of Fortune 500 corporations (not the CSO, the rank and file staff). Instructive, isn’t it?

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

They Came At Us In The Same Old Way ….

I noticed a link to The Liberty Papers from a blog that I hadn’t seen in a quite a while, Le Revue Gauche. Eugene, for those who’ve never been to his blog, is “an unabashed libertarian communist”. For those faithful readers who find this combination of words a bit suprising, it’s important to understand that there are really two separate and distinct anarchist movements. One on the Left of the economic spectrum and the other on the right of the spectrum. Both, naturally, are all at the extreme individualism end of the spectrum dealing with state authority. Libertarian communism, aka anarcho-syndicalism or, simply, anarchy, is descended from the socialism and romanticism of the 19th century. If you stop by Eugene’s blog you will notice references to Karl Marx, Pyotr Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin, rather than Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand or Robert Heinlein. It turns out that Eugene wrote an entry about Free Trade and used Hong Kong and Somalia as examples.

Specifically, Eugene linked to my article on Monopolies, Markets and Microsoft and said the following (note the words in bold are where the link is contained).

And the capitalist state is not just any kind of government, it is a specific kind of government that regulates the market in favour of stability for the creation of monopolies. As the history of Hong Kong and of course British and American capitalism shows. This is the history that the right wing of course has always revised, whether it is the Heritage Foudation or the Von Mises Institute.

I thought this was curious, since my article flies in the face of the normally accepted position among libertarians. I finally decided that Eugene had not really read my article in context, nor the discussion that followed. That, in fact, I happen to believe that government promotion of corporatism is a major problem and the anti-thesis of capitalism. More importantly, he betrays an idea that is part of the Left’s meme war. This particular idea has been so effective that many on the Left don’t even recognize just how false it is, perhaps even Eugene doesn’t. The idea that has been promoted since the the mid-19th century is:

Corporatism = Capitalism

Anyone that has read Adam Smith and then looks at how supposedly capitalist economies work would recognize that the USA and UK are not capitalist in any sense of the word. The purpose of government, from a capitalist perspective, is to provide a neutral framework for the market to work within. It should not favor producer, retailer nor consumer, nor should it favor management or labor. By continuously aligning the idea that a scenario where government favors management over labor in the employment market and favors centralized corporations over small businesses and consumers in the broader market, the Left has successfully created the idea that this is Capitalism. Of course, I’m glossing over a lot of the progressive theory of the Left, which would argue that the corporatism of the the 1870’s through today represents the progression from feudalism to mercantilism to capitalism to corporatism and is the means by which class struggle is played out (heh, I can use those terms, even when they just make me want to chuckle).

Eugene (and many others on the Left) is using the Von Mises Institute’s discussion of Somalia to show that anarcho-capitalism perpetuates the “class struggle”. Indeed, the Left points to the issues of drought and starvation in Somalia to show that warlords, strongmen and feudalism will arise in an anarcho-capitalist system, completely ignoring the punch-line from the Mises article:

A democratic government has every power to exert dominion over people. To fend off the possibility of being dominated, each clan tries to capture the power of that government before it can become a threat. Those clans that didn’t share in the spoils of political power would realize their chances of becoming part of the ruling alliance were nil.

What everyone ignores is the bull in the china shop, the UN. It is the UN and the Western states that are trying to create a democratic government in Somalia. Which is a significant contributing factor to the warlords having power. Even disregarding all of that, what Eugene ignores is that Somalia is better off than their neighbors in the Horn of Africa. You know, those neighboring countries that have governments and written laws instead of clans, warlords and customary law.

I don’t particularly think Somalia is a good example of the outcome of anarcho-capitalism since it isn’t anarcho-capitalism. It is completely distorted by the intervention and meddling of a wide variety of governmental organizations. And, even so, with the almost non-existent national government they are managing to do better than their neighbors. That, by itself, should tell us something.

More importantly, if you want to tackle capitalism, I’m game for the debate. But, the Left continues to try and equate corporatism and proto-fascism with capitalism. They come at us in the same old way, time after time.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Something to Ponder

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.

Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again too. Who decides?

Robert Heinlein

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Eric Raymond on the Media

WASHINGTON — Media analysts sounded an increasingly gloomy note today following news that a full-scale outbreak of civil war in Iraq had been averted. “The prospects for regime change in Washington seem increasingly remote,” said one senior White House reporter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Hah! Read the whole thing.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Thoughts Along The Same Lines

Sean Lynch has an interesting discussion at Catallarchy in a post called Connecting The Political Circle. He puts quite a few words into discussing the differences, and similarities, between libertarians (aka anarcho-capitalists) and anarchists (aka anarcho-syndicalists) and socialists.

It’s occurred to me that the main difference between libertarians or anarcho capitalists and socialists or communists is beliefs about what is likely/possible rather than what is desirable. I think the main reason anarchists say anarcho-capitalists are “not anarchists” is that they think anarcho-capitalists just want to eliminate government and want/expect the existing corporations to stay as they are, with the end result being that the corporations become the new government (hence calling us not-anarchists).

I think the last sentence is clearly how Libertarians are perceived. It is, in fact, one of my primary issues, as has been evident in the discussion between Doug Mataconis and I here on The Liberty Papers (see this, this and this for examples). Yes, I believe in individual rights and liberties and the power of markets, I detest the idea of “positive freedoms”, and agree with much else that libertarians believe in. But, I’m not a libertarian, and rarely describe myself as being one. Then it is usually because I’m closer to that position than anything else. The thing I think that libertarians and anarcho-capitalists basically lose sight of is that all concentrations of power are destructive to individual liberty, whether they are formal governments, or not.

Speaking of collusion, this brings up another issue that keeps people on the socialist side of the fence: monopolies. We’re all taught in school that artificial monopolies (i.e. those that are created intentionally by monopolists) can be created and sustained, that they harm the consumer, and that they must be broken up or controlled by government. In school, these were simply called “monopolies” and natural or state monopolies simply weren’t addressed. In actuality, it’s not hard to show that historical monopolies have always failed except when the state has intervened to support them, and that even where natural monopolies persist, they do not harm the consumer (at least not more than a state monopoly) and advances in technology eventually make them competitive anyway.

I think there’s some important thoughts in here, one of which Sean sort of glosses over. First, I agree that artificial, legal and natural monopolies are not permanent things. Second, I agree that government intervention does much more harm than good. In my opinion, the anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft actually helped to sustain the monopoly they currently have over consumer operating systems and the desktop office suite markets, rather than breaking it up. If nothing else, it convinced people that they had to buy Microsoft products because they were the only viable product. It also convinced competitors to come to terms with Microsoft in a way that favored MS when the government failed to do anything meaningful (from their perspective). Probably the most important thought is downplayed, in a deprecatory sort of fashion. And that is that non-government monopolies hurt consumers. Of course they aren’t worse for consumers than legal monopolies, but that doesn’t mean that Microsoft being able to artificially control scarcity in the office suite market is good for consumers.

So, what does all this make me? I’m clearly neither a socialist nor an anarcho-syndicalist. But, my perspective on corporations, monopolies and concentrations of power seems incompatible with libertarians, conservatives and anarcho-capitalists. I usually describe myself as a rational anarchist. I believe in the sovereignty and responsibility of the individual, and oppose the concentration of power aimed at coercing the individual. I think that is, ultimately, the disconnect between libertarians and I.

Update: A thought struck me, and I think it’s one worth exploring, on this whole issue of libertarians, corporations and monopolies. I think that what is happening is that libertarians are stepping over a line that they should reconsider. They go from defending the market against government intrusion to defending the actual entities within the market that are the proximate cause of the desired intrusion. While government intervention and/or intrusion into the market is something we don’t desire and should actively work against, that doesn’t mean that the target of the intrusion, Microsoft for example, is something good that needs to be defended. In fact, neither Microsoft nor Wal-Mart are shining examples free market practices to hold up to the world. We have a tendency to defend the target of the government intervention, which is a mistake.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Quote for this Week

I’d say this fits in well with our current education discussion.

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

William Pitt (1759-1806) British Prime Minister (1783-1801, 1804-06) during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

The Education Monopoly

The current paradigm in this country is that education for our children is provided by public institutions, paid for with tax money. Not only that, but that education by institutions controlled, either directly or indirectly, by the state is mandatory for all children through the end of high school. I’m positive that some of you will point out to me that children can be educated by home schooling or private schools and thus my claim is wrong. I’m not wrong, but I’ll come back to that in a moment. This is a situation that, in the world of business, we would call a monopoly.

In economics, a monopoly (from the Greek monos, one + polein, to sell) is defined as a persistent market situation where there is only one provider of a particular kind of product or service. Monopolies are characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide, a lack of viable substitute goods, as well as high barriers to entry for potential competitors on the market.

The public education system is actually a coercive or state monopoly, which means that means of force (or in this case, the threat of force) is used to coerce the consumer to adhere to the monopoly and to prevent competition. In the United States (as in most Western nations) the consumer (the student and his parents) have no choice, they must attend school. And the school must be accredited by the state. Thus only schools which the state approves can exist and do business. If you believe that the public education system is not coercive, imagine trying to tell your local school board that your child is not going to attend their schools, nor any other accredited school, be it public or private, but that you, as the parent, will take personal responsibility to ensure that your child is appropriately educated. I would suggest that the next thing that will happen is that you will receive a court order to have your child attend school. If you refuse that order then you will be arrested and child placed in protective custody.

The basis for doing this is that all children should be educated to a certain minimum standard in order to be competitive in society after childhood and able to function as adults. So far, so good and a concept I can agree with. The concept is further extended to declare that education is a sure and certain means to combat poverty, crime and tyranny. Yet again, I won’t argue. In fact, just the opposite, I agree wholeheartedly. Now we get to the meat of the matter, and where I diverge from the publicly held conventional wisdom. The argument that favors gathering tax money from me and funding public schools that your child must attend (or an equivalent “private” institution) is that the aforementioned reasons for education and benefits to the society and the individual means that the state should intervene to ensure the positive outcome desired.

I disagree with this position for two reasons. The first is the obvious position of a libertarian. Coercion by the state is wrong. But there’s another reason, and I believe this one is more compelling for those who are not necessarily as likely to believe state coercion is always wrong as I am. The reason is simple really. The state’s coercive monopoly in education is a worse choice for promoting the goals we enumerated in the prior paragraph:

  • The individual is socially competitive
  • Able to function at a minimum level of sophistication and knowledge
  • Combating poverty and crime
  • Safeguarding against tyranny

The problem is not so much the consumer (students and parents) in a monopoly, as it is the monopolistic entity. The monopoly has no incentive to innovate, improve efficiency, or lower cost. The reason for this is that there is no competition. At the risk of this not being fully understood, I’m not going to go into the details of why this is so. Earlier I linked to a Wikipedia article on monopolies that explains the phenomenon quite well. It should be obvious, once you recognize this, that it is not the wealthy and privileged who are hurt by such a situation, but rather the poor and unprivileged since competition drives innovation (better products), efficiency (products delivered more effectively), higher quality (differentiates the product) and lower prices. The answer provided to monopoly by the socialist (or statist to use libertarian parlance) is government intervention and/or control.

By looking at the telecom market in the United States we can understand that state intervention distorts the market. During the years that AT&T was a state enforced monopoly telephone service was provided at a certain basic level to all who would pay the price (not all that high) that AT&T charged for that service. But there were no additional services (voice mail, call waiting, caller ID, multiple lines and much more). Today, I pay little more (I pay less after adjusting for inflation) for my residential phone line in a competitive market than I did for my phone line in a monopoly, yet the services I get are much better than I did then. And that service is ubiquitous because we all see the value in it, thus we are willing to pay a reasonable price for that service. By 1970 a natural monopoly existed in the United States in the automobile market. The “Big 3″ auto manufacturers (GM, Chrysler, Ford) sold somewhere on the order of 85% of all cars sold in the USA. Low quality, high price and lack of innovation was an accepted fact in the automobile market. Today, with a dozen or so manufacturers competing in the US auto market, that situation is changed. The large increase in cost is due to a combination of much better features than previously available and government safety and environmental regulations (i.e. distortion of the market by government intervention).

Would anyone reasonably suggest that we return to the days of the AT&T or “Big 3″ auto manufacturers monopolies? Of course not, we see the benefits to us for products that are nearly universally in demand. We see the fact that we can exert control over the market for these products and we see that the suppliers are working to attract our business with innovation, quality, price, features, efficiency, etc.

I propose that we should remove government intervention and control from our “education system” and make it an education market. Given the universal desirability of education I suggest that we will not end up with a less educated population. Parents would be able to afford education for their children due to their reduced tax burdens. Since the market would almost certainly dictate a lower price per year than the current price we pay per student there should be a net economic benefit (the net difference between current cost and market cost). It is almost certain the situation could not be worse than our current situation. I’ve read far too many studies that show that our real literacy rate, as opposed to the high school graduation rate, today is below 80% in the adult population. This despite the fact that all children are now required to attend school until the receive a high school diploma or GED. And most of that illiteracy is concentrated among the poor and unprivileged of our society. If we, as a society, decide that the poor need some assistance to pay for their education then we could certainly provide scholarships and tuition assistance through public and private organizations. And still our total cost for education would be lower than it is today, through the market mechanisms. Not only that, most of the other problems we decry on a regular basis, poor teachers, lack of innovation and so forth, would be dealt with on a competitive basis. A school whose students had poor records after graduation would not attract more students.

An interesting case study is the situation of education in North America prior to the American Revolution. By and large there was no “public education” as we understand the term today. Not only that, the American colonies were 95% agrarian, with a much lower demand for education than our current industrial society transitioning to information society. Yet the colonists had the highest literacy rate in the Western world (which is to say in the entire world), higher even than Great Britain, which was about to launch the Industrial Revolution. Education was recognized as desirable (and thus in demand) and there was a free market for education. This resulted in good quality and low cost. It should also be noted that the United States had one of the highest standards of living by the early 19th century and that the high literacy rate almost certainly contributed to the rise of American political philosophers like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Paine and so on, and ultimately to the American Revolution. The bottom line is that the free market applied to education will be more beneficial to those who most need the education than the current state monopoly.

Update 2/23/2005: Micha Ghertner over at Catallarchy posts on school choice based on policy analysis done by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. The article clearly supports my position, with real evidence, that the poor and unprivileged would most benefit from an education system freed of government monopoly. Go read it and see what I mean.

I originally wrote this and posted this at Eric’s Grumbles almost exactly one year ago.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Undercover Economics: Free Trade vs. Environmentalism

Recently, Patri Friedman posted an excerpt from the Copenhagen Consensus over at Catallarchy. He pointed out that economists agree that the removing trade barriers globally is one of the best ways to spend money from a cost/benefit perspective. I commented fairly extensively on that thread, suggesting that free trade really should be ranked #1 on the list, not #3, behind spending on HIV and malnutrition. This is because I believe that free trade will increase wealth, which will, in turn, increase the money available to be spent on problems like HIV and malnutrition.

I’ve also been, concurrently, reading The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! by Tim Harford. I got turned on to the book by another post Patri wrote, actually. In any case, although there are quite a few areas where Harford and I don’t see eye to eye politically, he has written an entertaining book explaining some of the core ideas of economics in a way that most people should be able to understand. In the second to last chapter of the book, which I just finished, he tackles globalization and free trade. There are quite a few myths surrounding globalization, most of which are memes created by special interest groups that appeal to progressives. This is neither the time nor the place, so I won’t get into what a contradiction in terms the label “progressive” actually is. Aside from that, two of the myths that Harford tackles quite well are that international free trade is bad for the environment and bad for the citizens of poor countries. I won’t tackle the issue of free trade being bad for workers in poor countries, that particular myth has been dispelled quite well many times over. I’m going to tackle free trade and environmental issues. I found the discussion surrounding environmental issues particularly enlightening, especially if you combine it with the realities of environmentalism and global warming. You’ll have to actually read the book to get all of the details, I’m not going to quote the whole chapter here. He lays out evidence for the following points, however:

  • Agricultural subsidies and tarrifs lead to mono-cultural ecologies and increased use of pesticides and fertilizers. The evidence correlates nicely. Industrialized nations that protect their agriculture have the highest rate of use of pesticides and fertilizer in the world.
  • Industries that pollute the most are located in rich, industrialized countries and not relocating to poor countries. These happen to be industries that require good infrastructure, rule of law, strong political institutions and well educated workers. The industries that are relocating are low polluting, such as textiles.
  • As nations grow wealthier, the rate of pollution per person begins to level off and then decline around the point of $5,000 of per capita income. This is a reason to want to see an increase the wealth of poor countries.
  • Manufacturers tend to use technologies that are low polluters because it turns out that they are, for the most part, also more efficient and less expensive once implemented. They tend to do this in all countries, not just the ones with tougher environmental regulations.
  • Economists believe that we are seeing the peak of energy demand in wealthy countries. This is primarily because of saturation, not cost. In other words, when every family in the US has a place to live with an air conditioner, two cars, a computer and a couple of TV’s (more or less), there really isn’t much that is being introduced to increase energy use. It’s a demand issue, rather than a supply and cost issue.

He then goes on to say:

What, really, are we to make of the environmentalist attack on free trade? We’ve seen that the race to the bottom is nonexistent; that polluting industries are still based in rich countries, rather than poor countries; that environmental standards are rising in China, Brazil, and Mexico, the major destinations for foreign investment into poor countries; that protectionist measures such as those on farming, steel, and coal, which sometimes claim environmental justifications in fact are tremendously harmful to the environment; that taxes on transportation fuels are consistent with free trade and much better for the environment than trade restrictions; and that the worst environmental problems, at least of today, are caused by poverty not wealth. The environmentalist movement should be manning the barricades to demand global free trade immediately. One day, perhaps they will.

I wouldn’t hold your breath. The environmental movement is also, for the most part, convinced that managed economies are the solution to the world’s ills. These folks believe in egalitarianism to the nth degree, which will simply result in all of us being equally poor except a privileged few living in privileged splendor. Kind of like the old Soviet Union was.

Environmentalism is sadly out of touch with reality in so many areas that I fail to see how we can possibly take them seriously.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball
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