Author Archives: tarran

Did the FBI Just Admit That Drug Dealers Are Victims?

Last week some ex LAPD officers were convicted in Federal Court.  These thugs had been convicted of conducting numerous home invasions, violently battering the people they found there and tossing the homes for illegal drugs which they then fenced.

The FBI, understandably proud of its role in apprehending these criminals, has issued the following press release:

Evidence presented at the plea hearings and the January 2008 trial of co-conspirators William and Joseph Ferguson revealed that Palomares and Loaiza were members of a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy that committed over 40 burglaries and robberies throughout the Los Angeles area between early 1999 and June of 2001. Palomares was the ringleader of this conspiracy, which included other law enforcement officers as well as drug dealers. The robberies generally were committed after the group received information that a particular location was involved in illegal drug-trafficking. The robbery teams usually consisted of multiple sworn police officers in uniform or displaying badges who would gain access to the residence by falsely telling any occupants that they were conducting a legitimate search for drugs or drug dealers. Victims often were restrained, threatened or assaulted during the search. These assaults included firing a stun gun at a victim, striking victims with police batons and putting a gun in the mouth of a victim. When the group stole drugs, they would use co-conspirators to sell the drugs, then split the profits from these sales among the group.

In all, 17 defendants, including law enforcement officers from the Los Angeles Police Department, the Long Beach Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Department of Corrections, have been convicted of federal crimes in connection with the conspiracy. Co-defendant Joseph Ferguson was sentenced to 97 months in prison on May 5, 2008.

“ These defendants, who were sworn to serve and protect the people of Los Angeles, went from enforcing the law to breaking the law,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “While the vast majority of law enforcement officers carry out their difficult duties in a professional manner, the Department of Justice will not hesitate to prosecute those who cross that line.”

“ With brazen disregard for the safety of those he was victimizing, Ruben Palomares repeatedly violated the sanctity of the law he was sworn to uphold,” said Thomas P. O’Brien, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California.

Reading this press release, I can’t help but notice that the FBI referred to the people who had drugs stolen from their home as ‘victims’.  But why?  After all, all the actions the corrupt policemen took during their home invasions would have been quite legal had they been executing a warrant.   The only difference in their actions were that they a) didn’t arrest the inhabitants for drug posession, b) they sold the drugs.

It is clear that the people whom these corrupt policemen robbed were treated better than they would have been had the policemen been conducting an official counter-narcotics operation.  The inescapable conclusion:  if the drug dealers these police robbed were ‘victims’, then all of those who are arrested for drug dealing and drug possession must be considered victims too.

Hat Tip:  The Agitator

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.

Help Reduce Child Abuse: Legalize Polygamy Now!

A great deal of attention is focused on the recent raids on the FLDS compound in Texas. The behavior of the state has rightly been condemned, most effectively by Les Jones who wrote:

Imagine that some parents in a school district were accused of child abuse. Now imagine that the authorities took every child from the elementary, junior high, and high school away from their parents and put them in foster care. That’s a rough analogy of what’s happening in Texas.

There is no question that that the people in charge of the FDLS abuse their members. The church leaders will evict dissidents, break up families, particualrly by ordering women to leave their husbands.

Why do church members allow the abuse to happen?

The interesting question in this matter is why do the members of the church tolerate the mistreatment? Why do fathers who presumably love their daughters permit them to be given to men as trophies? Why do mothers who love their sons permit them to be sent to slave away in coal mines at a young age? The members of the FLDS are human beings, with all the emotional attachment to their children that is inherent in humanity. Why are people making these horrible choices?

When people are stay in a hostile environment, it is generally for one of three reasons:

1) They are too lazy to leave/change.

2) They are afraid to leave, because leaving would be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

3) They are afraid to leave, because they will be forced to abandon something so precious that leaving is more unbearable than staying.

The Sources of Fear:

It is readily apparent that people are afraid to leave for both sets of reasons:

1) Children who leave find themselves cut off from family. Poorly educated, they lack the ability to support themselves and live a mean, impoverished lifestyle. They are literally ‘foreigners in their own country’.

2) The church owns most of the property. Thus a person who wishes to leave usually owns only the clothes on their back and little more. People are not paid; rather their salaries are held in common in a bank owned by the church leaders. They are not permitted to bank elsewhere or to withdraw their money without permission. Church leaders have been known to arbitrarily reduce the balances credited to dissidents.

3) The members of the church are afraid of the outside world. They fear that they face persecution by outsiders. they are terrified of law enforcement.

Predator Pressure and Feudalism:

But why is the church so powerful? Why can it make such demands of its members? The sad fact is, the people who are members of the church have little choice; their fears of persecution are well justified – Mormons have faced persecution throughout their history. Joseph Smith was murdered by a mob who was outraged by his advocacy of polygamy. In the mid 19th century, there were anti-Mormon pogroms. The Federal Government insisted that the Mormon leaders repudiate polygamy before permitting Utah to become a state. The raids in the 1950’s solidified hatred and distrust of the outside world. The fear of persecution exists because polygamists are persecuted in the U.S.

Furthermore, because of the persecution, devout church members faced a difficulty in finding business partners and naturally banded together and did business largely with other church members. This lack of trade allowed church leaders to gradually take over the community’s wealth. In effect the fear of persecution recreated feudalism. The church leaders became the noblemen, and the common church members became the peasants.

As the church gained a totalitarian control of their members’ economic activities, the church was able to isolate their members from being able to function in outside society. The church could exert a totalitarian control of how the young are educated. It could make or ruin men.

Furthermore, the members of the church are denied access to the court system; after all if a man is vulnerable to prison-time for bigamy he is hardly likely to sue the church for ripping him off.

Ending the Dark Ages

By criminalizing their deepest religious beliefs, the state in effect empowers church leaders to abuse the members of the church at will. If the malignant power or the church elders were an arch, the laws banning polygamy would be its keystone. Legalizing polygamy would doom the feudal system.

Parents who felt that telling a church elder to go to hell would not leave them poor would be far less likely to permit their children to be sexually abused or kicked out of their community. Church elders who were aware that their flock could leave at any time would have a great deal of incentive to treat their followers kindly rather than abusively.

There is nothing inherently evil in polygamy itself. Most people would not choose to be part of a polygamous marriage. Some though, for a variety of reasons, do. Absent the violence and fear that is caused by prohibition, there is no reason why their experiences should not match that of Janet Averett who writes:

I was raised in a polygamous home. My dad had two wives, and each wife had her own house and kids. As kids we wore blue jeans, listened to rock ‘n’ roll music and watched TV. We went to public school and many attended college. We fell in love and married whoever we wanted, at or above the legal age.

We now work and live all over the country. I am no longer in a polygamous group, and neither are most of my brothers and sisters.

The laws against polygamy are holdovers from a dark ages where homosexuality and interracial marriages were similarly outlawed. The proponents of outlawing homosexuality and interracial marriage could point to many problems associated with those practice when they were outlawed. However, upon close inspection, all of the violence, degradation, social harms, and psychological problems associated with these former illegal activities were in fact caused by their prohibition. The same is true of polygamy.

Legalization would go a long way to ending the culture of subjugation and child abuse that is alleged to exist within the FDLS community.

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.

Why Energy Independence Is a Futile Way to End Middle-East Terrorism

In an earlier post, I discussed the economic damage that “energy independence” would cause to U.S. consumers. In a recent conversation in meatspace, I ran into someone who acknowledged this problem, but argued that the price is “worth it” because when we trade with people who make oil, those people use the wealth to do all sort of bad things, like funding Al Queda. This argument has some merit; I certainly wouldn’t buy bread from a guy who would use the money to fund attacks on his neighbors.

Let’s examine this problem using the infamous Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland California as an example. This bakery is the cash cow for a gang that is involved in all sorts of criminal activity, ranging from auto-theft to destroying the stocks of alcohol stores since the bakers religiously disapprove of drinking.

If we take the proponents of energy independence’s approach to this matter, we would be calling for the city of Oakland, through a web of subsidies and taxes, to encourage the development of industries providing alternatives to bread. We would demand that they subsidize spaghetti shops, encourage people to bake their own bread, and tax bread use. We would seek to make bread more expensive for all so that people will consume less bread and stop buying bread from the bakery.

Instead of focusing on this particular bakery, instead of calling for a boycott of that particular bakery, we would seek to deprive all bakers of their livelihoods, make food more expensive for all including those who are desperately poor and have difficulty affording food. This is taking a sledgehammer to swat a fly and very immoral to boot!

But by trying to use violence to change the behavior of their countrymen, especially in a manner so ineffective to achieving their stated goals, the politicians calling for energy independence are crossing the line. People would rightly laugh if the Mayor of Oakland tried to eliminate bread from the city of Oakland as a means of ending the Your Black Muslim Bakery’s rein of terror. People should do the same to politicians calling for “energy independence” as a means of depriving Al Queda of its operating funds.

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.

The Right to Discriminate Based on Genetics

Very quietly, a bill has been working its way through Congress that bans Genetic Discrimination. The bill, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, has been passed by the House of Representatives with overwhelming support and will probably pass the Senate in the next few weeks.

While this bill has some powerful arguments behind it, it is a bad law and should not be passed. The freedom of association, the right to chose with whom you transact business or spend time with, is a basic human right – much like the freedom of speech and the right to your life. Respecting the freedom of association alone is a sufficient reason to oppose this bill.

The bill mandates that no medical insurer or employer may discriminate between employees based on their genetic predispostion towards disease. Dr Francis Collins explained the rationale behind the law thus:

We stand at a critical time in the development of medicine: the mapping of the human genome has provided powerful new tools to understand the genetic basis of disease, but our ability to fully realize the promise of personalized medicine is limited by legitimate fear of how this powerful information could be abused. Many people are afraid that their genetic information will be used against them and are unwilling to participate in medical research or be tested clinically, even when they are at substantial risk for serious disease. More than ten years ago, expert advisors to the genome project concluded that federal legislation is needed to provide all Americans with protection against genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment. Without it, we may never realize the full potential of genomic research, and, more importantly, of individualized approaches to health care.

Already, healthcare providers can test whether some of us carry DNA variants that pre-dispose us to certain diseases, and new research efforts could help to expand this capability and possibly offer better opportunities for preventive measures. If illness does occur, doctors will have more powerful tools to identify the molecular causes, and to prescribe medicines based on
individualized genetic information. This is our chance to transform medicine from “one-size-fits-all” to a potentially personalized approach.

[The] science of genomic medicine is rocketing forward. But fear of genetic discrimination threatens to slow both the advance of such groundbreaking biomedical research and the integration of the fruits of that research into our nation’s health care. If individuals continue to worry that they will be denied health insurance or refused employment because they have a predisposition to a particular disease, they may forego genetic testing that could help guide medical professionals to lessen their risk, simply because the test identifies them as having such a predisposition. This is about all of us, as there are no perfect specimens at the DNA level; each one of us carries numerous gene variants that increase our risk of developing one disease or another. Therefore, each one of us is at risk for genetic discrimination.

Public concerns about the possible misuse of their genetic information by insurers or employers have been documented. A recent NIH study of families at risk for hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) (a particular form of colon cancer) revealed that the number one concern expressed by participants regarding genetic testing was about losing health insurance,
should the knowledge of their genetic test result be divulged or fall into the “wrong hands.” Nearly half of individuals with a 50% chance of having the HNPCC mutation cited fear of insurance discrimination as their greatest concern surrounding their participation in this study. Similarly, a recent survey of the personal attitudes of cancer genetics specialists showed that
68% of respondents would not bill their own insurance company for HNPCC or breast and ovarian cancer (BRCA) genetic testing due to fear of genetic discrimination, and 26% of respondents said they would use an alias when being tested.

NHGRI remains deeply concerned about the impact of potential genetic discrimination on both research and clinical practice. Unless Americans are convinced that their genetic information will not be used against them, the era of personalized medicine may never come to pass. The result would be a continuation of the current one-size-fits-all medicine, ignoring the abundant
scientific evidence that the genetic differences among people help explain why some of us benefit from a therapy while others do not, and why some of us suffer severe adverse effects from a medication, while others do not.

These certainly are weighty concerns.

However, let us examine the costs such a law would impose on employers. Currently, laws impose penalties on anyone who hires someone else as a full time employee. The laws are structured so that the decision to hire someone brings a significant risk of losses to the person doing the hiring. Furthermore, mandates concerning provision of medical coverage, and government restrictions that dramatically reduce the availability of medical care mean that a person who hires another can find themselves having to pay for medical care to an employee who is not providing them with any work.

Imagine if laws mandated that you select a particular supermarket as your primary supplier of food. Imagine that these laws imposed a penalty if you switched stores, or forced you to pay the store a set amount of money whether or not you actually bought any food there. Wouldn’t you desperately need any information concerning the ability of a store to reliably provision you with your needs? Wouldn’t you be upset if you knew that the supermarket was purchasing its meat from an unhygienic meatpacker but were forbidden from using that information in selecting which supermarket you were going to be locked into? How could this law be enforced? What sort of evidence would the state gather to “prove” that you based your decision on an illegal set of criteria rather than a legal set?

In reality, employers and insurance companies discriminate illegally all the time, but are usually able evade punishment; they merely cloak their illegal decisions using legally permissible criteria as a cover. On occasion people who are not breaking discrimination laws are still found guilty of committing discrimination. This law will be yet another in the long list of anti-discrimination laws that are problematic to enforce. Unenforceable laws are, in my experience, uniformly bad; they inevitably become tools for politically persecuting those who are out of favor with the powers that be.

While it will not have a dramatic effect, I think that it will also tend make employers slightly less willing to take risks in hiring new people.

But what of Dr Collins’ legitimate and evidence-based concerns? How can we solve this problem?

Dr Collins has identified yet another aspect of the complete mess government intervention has made of the medical industry. People cannot afford to pay for their own medical care out of pocket, primarily because state governments unconscionably reduce the number of practicing doctors to a fraction of what would be provided in a free market, and because of federal tax laws encourage people to purchase socialized medical care from their employers, resulting in a form of the tragedy-of-the-commons where people are encouraged to over-consume medical care. We should be condemning the way the U.S. and state governments have cartelized the medical industry; it is this cartelization that causes people fear that without these nondiscrimination policies that they couldn’t afford to have their broken bones treated. Rather than calling for yet another unenforceable law, it would be better for Doctor Collins to lobby for the dismantling of Medicare and Medicaid, the repeal of tax laws that encourage employer funded health coverage, and the numerical caps placed by state licensure boards on the number of students medical schools graduate and the number of doctors who are allowed to practice medicine within each state.

But what of employment?

Dr Walter Block of Loyola University has written an essay on racial discrimination by employers which is very useful for tackling this subject:

Some people might recoil in horror from turning the clock on race relations back to the pre-1964 period. They would object that if a majority were free to discriminate against a minority, the latter would be greatly disadvantaged. That is, if, for example, whites, were to refuse to buy from, sell to, hire, work for, invest with, for example, blacks, the latter would be unemployed, homeless, and starving.

But this position is economically erroneous. All such scenarios fail to take into account the market’s fail-safe mechanism that helps those subjected to discrimination. Consider employment. If white racists rebuffed black workers, the first effect would indeed be unemployment or lower wages for the latter group. But this situation is only temporary, a mere first stage in the mental experiment we are now considering.(10) For with lower wages or greater unemployment, some whites(11) would be sorely tempted to employ these blacks, because they can earn additional profits exploiting workers who are underpaid or idled.

But is this not unfair to blacks? Why should they have to endure the indignity of lower wages and unemployment (or higher prices for food, clothing shelter, loans, etc.), even if it is only temporary? One answer to this very reasonable challenge is to realize that the enemy is not the market, which is riding to the rescue of the downtrodden group (by first allowing it to suffer, and then, in effect, making this suffering the key to their economic salvation). Another perhaps better answer is that this scenario is a hypothetical construct, articulated in terms of two stages, separate in time, and mainly for heuristic purposes. That is, to clarify the process, we purposefully assume that there would be two stages; in the first, the position of blacks is worsened, to show that in the second they would be rescued. In actual point of fact, there are no such two stages. Any time the wages of blacks (or anyone else) dips below their productivity levels, even by a tiny amount, there are immediate profit incentives to hire them, which starts their wages up on an upward spiral back toward equality.(18)

To return to my original objection, a person who has a genetic predisposition to an expensive illness has, statistically speaking, a lower expectation value for productivity. This is due to the fact that an employer has to take into account the risk that he is going to hire someone who then turns out to be a liability. The better path to improve the employability of people who are known to be predisposed towards genetic disease is to make it easier for employers to hire and fire employees, in part by reducing the laws that penalize discrimination rather than adding to them. Then an employer would not care so much about long-term risks. Rather than having to withhold a portion of their costs to hedge against unwanted dead-weight, they could pay wages that better approximate the marginal productivity of employees, resulting in higher take home wages. Those who are aware of their predisposition towards diseases would be then free to divert these higher wages towards preventative care.

There is yet another point that Dr Collins is bringing up that must be addressed. Even if the U.S. and state governments were to adopt my recommendations, people might still refuse to take the tests because people would probably still be afraid that the tests might be used against them somehow.

Unfortunately, the state can do nothing more than removing the interventions that have caused people to be reluctant to take the tests. I strongly doubt that this law will allay people’s concerns about taking these tests. Until the government stops making medical care unobtainable or prohibitively expensive for most people, people will still be reluctant to be tested, and I fear that Dr Collins’ vision of a medical care tailored to individuals will not be realized.

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.

Menino’s Homeopathic Solution to Gun Violence

This week Boston’s Mayor Menino testified before the Congressional Task Force on Illegal Guns. He had this to say:

We share a common disdain for what we have seen happen in our cities, to our residents and to our police officers as a result of illegal guns. So, we signed a statement of principles and agreed to work together to take illegal guns out of our cities.

….

Fighting crime is a top priority for all mayors – and fighting crime means fighting illegal guns. The stakes could not be higher. Fatal shootings of police officers increased 33 percent last year. I know that every mayor in this country will do whatever it takes to protect the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our cities safe.

So now, the voices of mayors are echoed by elected leaders and law enforcement officials from every part of America – and we’re making progress. Our numbers are growing, our mission could not be more timely and our message couldn’t be more clear: We need to stem the flow of illegal guns in our cities now.
Together, we will continue to work for common sense measures to fight illegal gun trafficking

His testimony was awfully short on the specifics on what problems “illegal guns” pose, other than claiming that they are behind an increase in shootings of police officers. Instead he lovingly details the growing number of government officials who are in favor of making the population increasingly dependent on them for protection.

In fact, the main complaint contained within his testimony seems to be that the work of the police is made more difficult by the prevalence of black marketeers importing guns illegally from areas where they can be legally manufactured and sold to ones where they cannot be legally imported and sold. But, his conclusions, that a Fugitive-Slave-Law style crackdown by the federal Government would somehow make the city of Boston safer is unbelievably wrong headed.

Assumption 1: A police monopoly on guns will make people safer:

This is, of course ridiculous. The police can take minutes or hours to respond to an attack in progress. The police are also under no legal obligation to respond at all. Restricting the supply of firearms makes defense of property increasingly expensive. While the wealthy can afford to hire security guards licensed by the state, or can convince political leaders to assign them special police details, those who are too poor, or lack political connections are left increasingly vulnerable.

Assumption 2: A reduction in the availability of guns will make criminals significantly less dangerous:

This is, again, ridiculous. The bank robbers who unsuccessfully attempted to rob a bank in California using AK-47’s are very rare exceptions to the rule that most crimes can be as easily committed with a knife as with a gun. A criminal carrying out an attack has the initiative; he chooses when and where he attacks and who his victim is. He is quite capable of altering his plans should the tools he has to work with be limited only to knives or base-ball bats. The ban makes the criminal more dangerous; firearms historically have favored defenders over attackers. There is a great deal of truth behind the saying God may have created men equal, but it was Samuel Colt who made ‘em equal.

Assumption 3: A meaningful reduction in the availability of guns is even possible:

Total bans on any good in wide demand, such as alcohol or cocaine or salt will result in smuggling. Nothing save setting up checkpoints on every road into Massachusetts and searching every car carefully will keep guns from flowing into the state. Unlike cocaine or whiskey, a gun gives off no chemical traces of its presence. Tape it to the underside of a car, and you can get it through any checkpoint.

Furthermore, any clever person can build simple yet effective weapons given a rudimentary machine shop. Even if a total ban on imports was possible, the measures required to prevent machine shops from producing firearms in quantities sufficient for a crime wave would be unenforceable.

Mayor Menino cited a figure of ~<500 illegal guns being associated by police with various crimes. 7 smuggling rings, smuggling in 15 guns a month each could easily supply this sort of demand. Hell 20 machine shops could easily make 10 guns a month to produce over 2000 guns a year if need be.

Nor will Mayor Menino ever be able to get rid of gun manufacture all-together. The demand for legal guns for his police force is sufficient to ensure that factories will be churning out a large quantity of fire-arms. Some of these will be diverted into the black market as surely as nuclear missile guidance systems ending up in Taiwan.

“What is not seen”

Mayor Menino does not want to outlaw guns. Rather what he wants to do is outlaw anyone but the police from having them. He views the guns as making violence in the city worse and as a hazard to the police. But by focusing on the firearms he is avoiding the questions he really should be asking:

Why are people resolving disputes by shooting at each other? Why are the police being threatened?

The answer to these questions is not a pleasant one to the politicians of Boston or Massachusetts, so they avoid asking them.

The short answer is that by writing and enforcing draconian economic and moral laws such as onerous labor laws, blue laws and drug laws, the politicians of Massachusetts are making it difficult for people to live their lives legally. The police are not seen as benefactors but as yet another street gang preying on the weak. The lack of legal business opportunities drive people to seek illegal occupations. While some of these illegal occupations are honorable (drug dealing, prostitution), many are dishonorable (burglary, mugging).

When people view the police as an enemy, and the courts as a predatory system, they naturally ignore them for resolving disputes. When business ventures are illegal, the participants are much more likely to settle disputes violently than via a system of arbitration.

What Mayor Menino seeks to do is to isolate the people of Boston from alternatives to dealing with the police. In effect he is behaving like an abusive boy-friend who tries to isolate his girlfriend from other people. Rather than improving the relationship between the citizenry and the government, these attempts will only increase the gulf between them. Any crackdown on the illegal gun trade will inevitably harm innocent people who are either in the wrong place at the wrong time, or who are deprived of a means to defend themselves. It will empower criminals to more brazen acts of thievery and mayhem. It will, in effect worsen most of the engines that drive criminality.

Until he recognizes that the political policies he and his circle support which are the root cause of the violence directed by the people subject to his rule towards each other and towards the police, nothing good will come of his advocacy and his actions.

It is time for the political classes of Massachusetts to stop treating the citizenry as children at best and as beasts to be exploited at worst. If they were serious about reducing the level of violence and the misery in Boston they would stop wasting time on trying to shore up a monopoly on defensive services on behalf of the police, give up their expensive hoplohobia-mongering propaganda campaigns, and would instead focus their attention to eliminating the laws purposed for economic and social engineering.

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.

How Saudi Justice Is Sometimes More Merciful Than American Justice

In the field of professional executioners, the Saudi executioner has one of the more brutal reputations since he uses a sword to cut off people’s heads. This is not the clean antiseptic push-button executions of the U.S. but one where the executioner has to physically exert himself, gore splatters and the smell of blood fills the air in front of a howling mob. One can hardly imagine a more barbaric spectacle, and would imagine that the executioners must be brutal men who love killing.

‘Before an execution I give the victim’s family a chance too.’
‘I ask them if they will forgive. Sometimes this happens at literally the last minute. My thoughts and prayers are concentrated on the fact that they will forgive the criminal. I hope that they forgive him and feel joy when they do,’ he adds earnestly. Rezkallah will take it upon himself to visit the victim’s family in order to obtain a stay of execution.

‘If I get the chance, and most of the time I do, I go and ask the family to give the criminal another chance. It has worked many times and the family has forgiven the criminal at the last minute.’ He smiles for a moment, recalling one such occasion.

Following a successful stay of execution, the crowd, somewhat surprisingly given the fact that they’ve turned up to witness a brutal death, breaks into rejoicing.

‘There is clapping and cheering,’ says Rezkallah. ‘The scenes of happiness are indescribable.’

In America, this quality of mercy, permitting the victim or victim’s family to forgive transgressions is wholly absent. Horror stories include the lifetime registration as a sex-offender of the man who was convicted of the statutory rape of the woman who is now his wife, and the man facing attempted murder charges despite his victim’s adamant testimony that the shooting was an accident.

When a family does beg for clemency, the process is far more involved. Rather than the stay of execution automatically being granted, the family must go before a governor and or a board of pardons and plead for the criminal’s life. Their wishes are irrelevant. The state alone determines what is justice. The victim’s wishes need not be respected, and are often ignored.

Yes, the Saudi legal code, with capital crimes like whitchcraft, is barbaric. But it is shameful that the U.S. legal code is less accommodating of the victims’ pleas for mercy.

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.

There’s a word for Energy Independence: Poverty

One of the hot topics in this campaign is a call for “energy independence”. All the candidates for president, with the exception of Ron Paul are for it. The vast majority of the candidates for Congress are for it too.

Essentially, the proponents are arguing that if people living in the U.S. bought less oil from people living outside the U.S., there would be much less reason for American soldiers to be sent to go fight in the Middle East, and Middle Easterners would have less money with which to fund attacks on Americans. Additionally, the supporters all seem to believe a largely unspoken mercantilist argument that by not buying oil from foreigners, Americans are better off since wealth stays within the borders of the nation.

The supporters argue that to achieve this, the U.S. government should, through a mixture taxes and subsidies, encourage people to either produce oil domestically, or to develop alternate sources of energy.

Let us examine this idea using a reductio ad absurdum. Imagine we did not simply stop at energy independence for the United States, but rather required each state to be energy independent. Imagine if the Federal Government outlawed the transport of any electricity, any fuel oil and any wood across state lines. What would be the result?

At least they aren't dependent on foreign oil.

At least they aren’t dependent on foreign oil.

Well, California and Alaska would be awash in cheap energy, but what would people in Vermont do? Should they send children out in to the forest every day to collect the days firewood? Should they huddle in their homes through the harsh winters carefully rationing out the year’s chopped wood so that they can survive through to the spring thaw?

Why stop at energy? Why not make people be clothing independent? Surely we need to become food independent as well?

Why stop at states? Why not continue to make people freer by making them independent of each other? Why not make each person responsible for producing their own food, their own clothing, their own energy?

Of course, people living in Alabama would have to give up maple syrup, and we living in New England might have to limit our consumption of table sugar and salt to very special occasions as they would become ultra-rare luxury goods. Once again the poor would be reduced to going bare-foot, and clothing would become precious again.

So called “self-sufficiency” has been proposed many times in various guises; The North Korean juche program, the American unions’ “Buy American” campaign of the 1980’s leap to mind. In every case it leaves the practitioners worse off. Deprived of purchasing goods from the lowest cost producers, people are forced to go with higher cost producers, thereby limiting the purchasing power of their own production. The extra cost results in everyone (except for the lucky guy whom people are forced to do business with) being poorer. Their hours of labor buy them fewer goods and services. It is no accident that countries whose economic policies are intended to foster “economic independence” tend to be very poor.

Even though the politicians are not attempting to outlaw oil imports outright, the subsidies and economic interventions they are proposing are destructive. The ethanol subsidies are destructive to farmland and are raising the price of food. The government grants for energy research divert money out of the financial industry that would otherwise be invested in more profitable uses. The result is that what is produced is not as closely aligned with what people want to consume.

There is nothing wrong with the proponents of energy independence calling for people to voluntary avoid consuming petroleum products. There is nothing wrong with the proponents advocating for research and development of new forms of energy to replace the petroleum industry. But in using violence inherent in government action to force people to follow their commands, they are making their countrymen worse off.

We should not be supporting the politicians who pander to this movement.

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.

When is Armed Rebellion Appropriate?

Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.

Ovid

One interesting question within political theory is the question of when armed rebellion against a government is justified. Most people that tackle this subject try to find some set of moral lines that a government must cross before it becomes illegitimate and thus armed rebellion becomes morally OK.

Being an anarchist I take a different tack. To me, since there is no such thing as a legitimate government and any organization that steals or commits acts of aggression against innocent people is behaving immorally, the question is one more of practicality than morality. The tax-man is another thief come to pick my pocket, and may morally be repelled with the same degree of violence directed toward any other thief. However, such violence may be unwise.

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

Sun-tzu – The Art of War

Anti-anarchist Political CartoonIn the late 19th century, as anarchism was coming into full flower, a significant faction of anarchists came to the conclusion that any government official, just like any extortionist or serial thief, could be attacked and even killed. They even encouraged such assassinations, reasoning that if government officials faced a high likelihood of death, they would quit their jobs, replacements would be hard to find and that the state would become paralyzed. They assassinated presidents and policemen, nobles and commoners. The “bomb throwing” anarchist had a major influence on history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Far from weakening the state, their attacks strengthened it. Why? Because they did not consider the effect of their attacks on society as a whole. The vast majority of people didn’t think President McKinley was a gangster who needed killing. Rather they were horrified by the nihilistic abandon of the anarchists and terrified that such violence would be visited upon them. Rather than seeing the assassins’ targets as villains, the vast majority of people saw them as victims and the laws proposed to check the depredations of these anarchists were greeted with wide popular support.

The Palmer crackdowns of World War I, the laws suppressing political speech opposed to the war and government’s assumption of control over the economy were all justified as being necessary tools for government to protect the citizenry against the ‘anarchist threat’.

If fate means you to lose, give him a good fight anyhow.

William McFee

Soldier Shoots MotherOf course, just because a rebellion is doomed to failure does not mean that it should not be attempted. Take the brave Poles who fought heroically against the Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto. They had no chance of succeeding; the Germans had more artillery pieces than the Poles had bullets, yet with the exception of a handful of people like Mahatma Ghandi, most human beings would consider their rebellion and fight to the death to be honorable and praiseworthy.

So where do we draw the line? Why was President McKinley’s assassin wrong and Adolf Hitler’s would-be assassin right? Remember, the U.S. Army was happily slaughtering Philipinos and committing atrocities against civilian populations during the McKinley administration.

Photo of race riotTo me, the criterion that establishes the appropriateness of armed rebellion is the question of what impact the rebellion will have on society as a whole. Armed rebellion is rarely a good idea because it is very destructive to civil society. The violence expands as innocent people are harmed. People are forced to choose sides and choose reactively – driven to pick a side out of revenge or fear. Neighbor turns against neighbor, brother against brother, and the wounds of war are not easily healed. Often the victors establish a new more oppressive government to suppress their enemies than the one that was overthrown.

If we wish to live in a free society, then we must choose the actions that help bring about a free society. A free society is only possible when a preponderance of the people choose freedom, choosing not only to live peaceably with their fellows, but to leap to their neighbors’ defense when their neighbors are threatened. A free society is only possible if, when someone like Ron Reiner proposes to force people to send their children to his indoctrination centers and to force 1% of the population to pay for this operation, the idea is greeted with widespread derision and rejected out of hand. It means that people choose to respect their neighbors and they resist the impulse to loot their neighbors.

War is not its own end, except in some catastrophic slide into absolute damnation. It’s peace that’s wanted. Some better peace than the one you started with.

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Vor Game

Therefore, to muster an effective resistance, a person must choose a set of actions that help bring about a more peaceful society. Grabbing a rifle and shooting at those who oppress us as Carl Drega purported to do, no matter how tempting, is ultimately futile and counterproductive. Not only does it not attract people to one’s cause, but it provides the government with a opportunity to send out very persuasive propaganda to the effect that those who oppose the government are a menace to their neighbors and that the draconian measures that government officials take are needed to protect the citizenry from these dangerous non-conformists.

But we must also stand up against those who say that somehow this is all right, this is somehow a political act — people who say, I love my country, but I hate my government. These people, who do they think they are saying that their government has stamped out human freedom?

U.S. President Bill Clinton, Remarks at Emily’s List Event, May 1 1995

 

To create a free society, we must persuade our neighbors to seek freedom. We must persuade them to adopt our aims as their own. This is done through speech and writing, by setting a public example through acts of civil disobedience. Examples of these forms of resistance includes such steps as

  • Videotaping police operations and publishing them on youtube.
  • Inventing new technologies that make bad laws impossible to enforce.
  • Befriending law enforcement officers and persuading them to question the bad laws they enforce.
  • Organizing mass movements that publicize the pro-freedom cause.
  • Flouting unjust laws in a manner that elicits public contempt for them.


The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

John Adams

What is needed is a propaganda war, and these are the tools of the effective propagandist. Most people do have a rudimentary emotional sense of justice and the most effective forms of resistance are ones that evoke it. The goal is to have everyone, including government officials, rally to one’s cause.

Is violence never appropriate? Hardly. Violence is appropriate when both of the following conditions are met:

  1. Child killed in the bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal BuildingThe violence must be proportionate to the aggression being resisted. The violence cannot be overly destructive or murderous. It must rather be at the minimum level to end whatever aggression one is defending against. Should the aggressor end his aggression and withdraw, the violence must end. This latter point is very important, since the only way a peaceful and freer society is going to happen is if the rebellion ends with the survivors willing to live peaceably with each other. And, of course, the violence cannot be aimed at innocent individuals. The picture to the right is not ‘collateral damage’ – it is murder!
  2. The violence will not make things worse. This requires that one of the following two conditions are met,
    1. The majority, or a sizeable minority of the populace supports the rebels’ aims but refuses to act out of fear. In the early 1920’s, as the Bolsheviks sought to establish control over the Russian empire, the GRU prosecuted a terror campaign against the citizenry. At any time of day there could be a knock on the door, or an agent seizing hold of a victim on the street or in their workplace. The victims would be bundled off to be tortured and, all to frequently, shot without even the pretense of a show trial to justify their murder. One Russian writer who witnessed this reign of terror commented that had one in ten households met the GRU agents with clubs and knives, it would have stopped the organization in its tracks. The GRU counted on fear and its ability to prevent its victims from acting in concert to enable their murderous campaign.
    2. When one faces certain death like the Poles facing deportation to Treblinka. In this case one has absolutely nothing to lose.

But if those criteria are not met, then violent rebellion is probably counterproductive and should be avoided. In the vast majority of cases, these criteria are simply not met.

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.

The Media’s Latest Hoplophobia-mongering

Internet Broadcasting Systems has a new breathless article warning of the latest danger to government space travelers making the rounds of the internet:

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station apparently have access to a gun.

Oh the horror! Then comes the letdown:

Russian Cosmonauts carry a gun on their Soyuz space capsule, which is attached to the space station.

Every spacecraft carries survival gear for crash landings, and the Russian Soyuz has a kit that includes the gun.

The weapon they are referring to is a gun designed for the Soviet space program that can fire a shotgun shell, a solid round and a flare, and which can be converted into a shovel and a machete. The Soviets included this weapon in the inventory for the Soyuz because the capsule lands in the wilderness of south-western Russia and could be out of reach of rescue crews for hours or even days. The Soviets began including the guns after wolves were seen in the vicinity of a capsule during one recovery effort.

Of course, this is too substantive for this authors, who decided to stick to their core competency of yellow journalism:

Experts said the idea of an astronaut losing control was unthinkable until one year ago, when Lisa Nowak shattered the myth.
Her own attorney said she was insane when arrested for hunting down another woman, and prosecutors said she was heavily armed.
Nowak had flown in space just seven months earlier.

The article is substantially lifted1 from an article written by journalist James Oberg who is primarily focused on writing about space travel. His much more substantive article may be found here:

In fact, Moscow’s latest diplomatic offensive to get a treaty banning weapons in space may be shot down by one of the proposed pact’s little-noticed provisions: Nobody else should get to put weapons in space, but Russia gets to keep the ones it already has.

Cosmonauts regularly carry handguns on their Soyuz spacecraft — and actually, that’s not unreasonable. There are practical and historical justifications.

But wait! Apparently the survival gun is being phased out and replaced with conventional side-arms

Just before last October’s Soyuz launch, a British news report said that the gun, manufactured by a factory that is now in an independent country, was being phased out because all the in-stock ammunition had exceeded its certified shelf life. In its place, a standard Russian army sidearm was now to be carried.

Guns were never carried aboard U.S. spacecraft. Instead, a sharp machete served as the most serious armament for a jungle landing. Besides, with a worldwide U.S. network of bases and existing air-sea rescue forces, odds were that any downed astronauts would be found and rescued pretty quickly. The same now goes for Soyuz spacecraft supporting the international space station and usually carrying an U.S. crewmember at launch and landing — any off-course vehicle would have the entire U.S. rescue team at their disposal almost immediately. But the legend of the hungry wolves trumps current realities, so the guns have remained.

Then Oberg too engages in some hoplophobic advocacy of his own:

And here’s the safety issue that nobody seems to want to talk about. As the space station crew size increases, with a much wider range of crew members (including paying passengers, either tourists or representatives of national research groups from Malaysia, Chile, Venezuela or elsewhere), everyone on board will have access to the gun in the Soyuz. By 2009 there will always be two Soyuzes attached, so two guns will be available.

The next Soyuz launch is set for April 8. The handgun is probably already packed. If Moscow wants to show it is really serious about keeping space “weapons-free,” and keeping orbiting astronauts and cosmonauts free of too-easy access to lethal weapons, the gun ought to be removed. Carry a machete, carry a Taser — but stop carrying guns into space.

Mr Oberg’s point is quite interesting. It isn’t weapons per se that are dangerous, but guns themselves. Why a crazed crewmember with a pellet shooting gun is unacceptably dangerous while a crazed crewmember armed with a stun-gun is not, I am not sure, since any thing that can be done with a gun – incapacitate humans, wreck equipment, open the pressure hull to space – can also be done by a malevolent crewman armed with a stun-gun.

The fact is, prohibition never works. It never will work, even in space. Where humans go, conflict follows. Even in prisons, which should be a hoplophobe’s dream since the guards work diligently to keep anything that can be used as a weapon out of the inmates’ hands, stabbings and shootings with improvised weapons are quite common.

If prison guards can’t keep prisoners from smuggling weapons or constructing them, how do the administrators of government space programs propose to keep arms out of the hands of intelligent, free people who have a knack for engineering?

Twenty years ago, a fellow named Grant Callin penned a wonderful pair of books, Saturnalia and its sequel A Lion on Tharthree. I highly recommend them since it is some of the best ‘hard’ science ficition written in the 1980’s. Both books are focused on the discovery of alien artifacts on Saturn and the conflict between various consortia as they vie to control access to the alien technology.

In A Lion on Tharthree, the Captain of humanity’s first interstellar spacecraft takes Mr Oberg’s precautions. Getting wind of a potential mutinous act on the part of one unstable crewmember, he locks the only weapon in his safe. When the mutiny does occur, spearheaded by the executive officer and the representative of one of the consortia, the captain finds himself facing mutineers armed with guns constructed from the kinetic sculptures they had brought on board quite openly. The price the Captain and his crew pay for this willful disarmament are the life-threatening bullet wounds they suffer as they are forced to make a human wave assault in a desperate attempt to preserve their lives.

Mr Oberg’s recommendations, if adopted, would ensure that the first time a weapon is used in space it will be a disaster.

Postscript:

1 I find the warning at the bottom of the IBS article, “This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed,” kind of funny in that what they really did was rewrite Mr Oberg’s article, and that badly.

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.

Mitt Romney “Suspends” his Campaign

Mitt Romney, seeing the writing on the wall, has suspended his campaign according to CNN.

This essentially kills any chance of a brokered convention; John McCain, once written off as lacking the money needed to make it to Super Tuesday, will be the Republican nominee come the convention.

This is, of course, a disaster for the Ron Paul campaign. With the nomination uncontested, there will be no debates.  there will be little media coverage.  There will be no brokered convention to horse trade in. While I think Ron Paul should formally stay in the race until the convention, the educational phase of his campaign is at an end. The time has come for Ron Paul to look to converting the political movement that coalesced around him into a political faction that will field many more candidates and become major players within the Republican party. This movement must be one that will outlast his political career. He has done far better than I expected when he first announced his candidacy, and it is time to convert all that he has accomplished into something long-lasting.

On a personal note, though, I am enjoying the shadenfreude. As governor, Mitt Romney was a willing participant in many steps taken by the legislature to further wreck the state, most notably the budget busting mandated health care program. Had Mitt Romney won the nomination, he would have left Massachusetts like the Marines withdrawing from north Korea: “We’re not retreating; we’re advancing in another direction”. Now, when Romney finally does leave the state, there is a good chance it will be seen as a retreat from a state that he helped loot and wreck further. Why do I care? Because I live about half a mile from the Romney’s, and I am one of the guys being squeezed by his disastrous policies.

Fortunately all is not lost for the Republicans who liked Mitt Romney. The Democrats have a candidate who appears to share many of his views on government subsidies for big-business and socialized health care. And, I’m sure she would be very grateful for their votes.

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.

Who Wrote the Ron Paul Survival Report? Will He Do the Honorable Thing and Step Forward?

On the eve of the New Hampshire primary a staffer made allegations accusing Ron Paul of consorting and collaborating with racists. The first hint came with this interview on the Tucker Carlson show:

This was followed by an article published today:

Angry White Man: The bigoted past of Ron Paul. by James Kirchick

The thesis of the article is:

the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul’s name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him–and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing–but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.

Excerpts from the newsletter may be found here

Ron Paul’s campaign released a statement disowning much of the racist/homophobic content here:

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA – In response to an article published by The New Republic, Ron Paul issued the following statement:
“The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts.
“In fact, I have always agreed with Martin Luther King, Jr. that we should only be concerned with the content of a person’s character, not the color of their skin. As I stated on the floor of the U.S. House on April 20, 1999: ‘I rise in great respect for the courage and high ideals of Rosa Parks who stood steadfastly for the rights of individuals against unjust laws and oppressive governmental policies.’
“This story is old news and has been rehashed for over a decade. It’s once again being resurrected for obvious political reasons on the day of the New Hampshire primary.
“When I was out of Congress and practicing medicine full-time, a newsletter was published under my name that I did not edit. Several writers contributed to the product. For over a decade, I have publically taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name.”

While it is clear to me that Ron Paul did not write these newsletters, someone close to him did. The writing style is completely different from that of Ron Paul. Moreover, it is clear to me that the author views himself to be in the midst of an apocalyptic culture war. Based on Ron Paul’s easygoing reaction to support from with strippers and marijuana growers, it is clear to me that Ron Paul does not share this view.

The big question is, who wrote these letters? Ron Paul is, either out of shame or friendship, keeping the name(s) a secret. While there is a sort of honor to keeping a confidence regardless of the personal consequences, Ron Paul is risking taking the winds out of the sails of his movement at a critical juncture by doing so. I firmly believe that Ron Paul, while a gentlemen and a man of honor, is yet again the victim of extremely poor judgment of the character of his associates. His employment of Eric Dondero, his long association with Gary North all speak to this.

The time has come for the author of the newsletters, whoever he is, to step forward and take the heat. This author used Ron Paul’s name to advance his cultural agenda rather than Ron Paul’s economic agenda. The time has come for him to take responsibility for his actions and to publicly explain how these articles ended up with Ron Paul’s name on them. If Ron Paul approved of them, then fine, Ron Paul will justifiably suffer the consequences. But if, as I suspect, the author was taking advantage of the good doctor, honor demands that he set the record straight.

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.

Should The Feds Mandate a Do-Not-Mail List?

On Reason’s website, Radley Balko has a great takedown of the Post Office’s hostility to the so-called ‘Do-Not-Mail-List’, which would prohibit the U.S. Postal Service from sending junk-mail to people who register themselves as not wanting junk-mail.

The U.S. Postal Service is opposing a “do not mail” list for junk mail because . . . well, I’ll just let them explain it:

Postal Service spokesman Al DeSarro said half of the mail his agency handles is direct marketing mail, and reducing its volume could cost thousands of Postal Service jobs.

This is terrific logic. Americans should be bothered with useless, unsolicited junk mail so that the USPS can continue to pay otherwise unneeded postal workers to deliver it. Makes sense to me.

I thus propose a federal “Agency for Digging Holes in Americans’ Front Yards.” Then, because of the holes-in-people’s-front-yards problem that will inevitably result, I propose a second “Agency for Filling In Yard Holes.”

These two agencies will create thousands of new federal jobs. And as we all know, new jobs are good for the economy.

This prompted an interesting rejoinder from a commenter martin who asked:

If companies want to pay the USPS to deliver their ads what’s wrong with that? Free market in action, no? Presumably those “unneeded” workers are being paid by those same companies’ mail payments.
You don’t like getting it, so instead of taking a sec to toss it, you call for a no-send list, government enforced, of course. What gives?

martin is bringing up a point that must be considered: does this list, which prohibits unsolicited mailings infringe on the rights of people to advertise their wares? Doesn’t that contradict the idea that when unwanted mail placed on your property, it is a form of tresspass?

To answer this question, we first should look at what would happen in a free market for mail delivery. In a free market, a person owning a chunk of land would be under no obligation to receive any mail. Nor would there be any organization that was obligated to deliver the mail to him either. However, most property owners would like to receive and send mail, so naturally there would be mail delivery companies that would offer mail delivery services. In all likelihood, this delivery system would take the form of people subscribing to mail service providers (MSP’s) much like people subscribe to ISP’s for access to the internet.

Of course, if one person subscribed to ‘Planet Express’ for their mail delivery needs, and they wanted to send a letter to a client of a competing MSP named ‘Awesome Express’, in all likelihood, Planet Express would deliver the mail to a transhipment point shared with Awesome Express and Awesome Express would handle the actual delivery. These transhipments would be governed by agreements that covered the terms and conditions under which mail would be accepted for delivery, and payments between the firms.

Just as people can sign up to have the ISP filter out Spam on the server, some MSP’s would offer no-junk mail services. Presumably, the early adopters would create standards that the later adopters would honor, and there would be industry-wide methods for people to signal whether or not they wanted unsolicited mail or not, and which senders were ‘trusted’ senders. Since the customers do not have to accept any mail at all, it is clear that these arrangements would in no way infringe on anyone’s rights.

Furthermore, the no-junk-mail services would probably be nuanced. For example, people could ask for no junk-mail to be delivered with the exception of mailers about local grocery specials.

Currently, we do not live in a free market. The U.S. Postal Service has been granted a monopoly by the U.S. government for mail delivery, a monopoly that has held up through the years despite the efforts of many heroic Americans such as Lysander Spooner and Fred Smith, for over 2 centuries Congress has succesfully prevented competitors from competing head to head with the Postal Service, typically by forbidding competitors from charging competitive rates or advertising their performance.

The U.S. Postal Service is a creation of the government. The laws passed by Congress define it, direct it and shield it. When Congress passes a law mandating that it provide some service, it is as if a board of directors ordered the officers of a company to provide a service. Thus, if there is nothing inherently illiberal about a laws mandating that the USPS honor a do-not-mail list. The laws that grant it a monopoly on the other hand …

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.

Ron Paul Defends Liberty on PBS

Bill Moyers has published an interesting interview with Ron Paul on his website. Whether you are a friend or foe of Paul, I highly recommend it.

Part 1

Part 2:

Part 3:

He makes many good points. He calls for less government regulation of media, even in the face of Fox News’ refusal to include him in the upcoming debates. He talks about the need to raise a new generation that believes in self reliance rather than waiting for someone to give them hand-outs.I found two passages to be very meaningful. On the ideological differences between the mainstream candidates vying for both the Democratic and Republican nominations, here’s what he had to say:

… when you get up on the leadership ladder, it seems like policies aren’t a whole lot different.

Foreign policy never changed. Domestic fiscal policy, the welfare entitlement system never changes. Monetary policy won’t even be discussed. And that’s both parties. And the vehicle that you use I think is not as relevant as the message. And that has been what has driven me is the fact that we need to change course in this country. I highly respect the Constitution. But I’m not even overly rigid about the Constitution. There’s a vehicle for changing it. I just I’m not overly rigid don’t ignore it. Don’t go to war without declaring it. And you know, you listen to the Fourth Amendment. Listen to what it says about the privacy rights of the American people.

On foreign policy he makes the point that all too often is missed by his supporters and detractors. Regardless of the needfulness of the wars, we cannot afford them. Sooner or later we won’t be able to afford these adventures, and rather than having some measure of control of how these wars wind down, the wars will end disastrously for the U.S. government and to the citizens and residents of the country.

If you go by years, it was our worst year. We lost 900 men in Iraq, over 100 in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is blowing up. It’s coming unraveled. We’re involved in two countries they are trying to nation build. At the same time, it looks like we’ll be in Pakistan. So, this whole idea that there’s some type of victory going on over there, and it’s a disaster.

And they would like us to not talk about it anymore. But we cannot hide from it, because it’s tied into the finances. All great countries end when they extend themselves too far overseas. And the litmus test is what do they do to their currency? We did not have to fight the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union [collapsed] because of economic reasons. That is what’s going to happen here. We willfully invaded. You know how many weapons we have. We have more weapons, probably twice as many as everybody else put together. Nobody would dare touch us. And yet everybody’s frightened. “Oh, who’s going to attack us? And who’s going to deliver us?” But it’s the financial thing that will finally bring us to our knees.

In the end Ron Paul is accomplishing a very important task. Even if he is unsuccessful at forcing a brokered convention, his candidacy has inoculated a significant part of the U.S. electorate against making the same mistake our grandparents made in the late 1920’s and 1930’s when they embraced the fascism of Hoover and FDR, plunging the U.S. into a depression that lasted well into 1947.

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.

Should Oil Producers Embargo America Again? The Democrats And Republicans Seem To Think So

In 1973, OPEC announced an embargo of oil sales to countries whose governments had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur war. In the U.S. this precipitated a major economic crisis as the U.S. government attempted to ration gasoline and control production and sale through a regime of price controls. The U.S. Central bank also embarked on an inflationary spree in an attempt to “stimulate ” the economy. Just as in the Great Depression, the result was a combination of inflation and economic stagnation, known as “stagflation.”

Today, nearly every presidential candidate is calling for something called “energy independence”, which amounts to an attempt to reenact the embargo, although this time it would be the U.S. government turning back oil shipments instead of the Saudi Government. This suicidal course is supposed to insulate the economy from high energy prices and to promote attempts to mitigate global warming. However, rather than insulating the economy from higher energy prices, these measures will have the perverse effect of making the high energy prices we face today more devastating and permanent.

Energy is merely a factor of production; one of many inputs that are converted into a more valuable product or service. Because energy is one of the most important inputs into most manufacturing processes, consumers of energy tend to be very price-conscious; attempting to get the most ergs for their dollar. However, unlike a person shopping at a grocery store, they can’t easily switch from oil to natural gas as easily as a consumer switches switches from buying eggs and bacon for their breakfasts to buying oatmeal. Once a factory or some other piece of heavy equipment or facility is designed to use on particular energy source, switching to another source is either very expensive or impossible. Thus, the largest consumers of energy look at not only the current price of energy products, but also at the long term trends. They try to lock in suppliers to long term contracts. They study the long term availability of the various sources and try to predict what the supply situation is like.

This desire for predictability forces energy producers to focus on keeping prices low and stable, if they want to attract customers. Because there are so many consumers of energy who will pick a supplier and stick with that supplier for a long period of time, and because these customers strive to understand their supplier’s business in great detail, the sources of energy that they choose to consume tend to be the most stable and cheapest sources then available, generally energy from oil or other petroleum products.

The plans being promoted by the politicians attempt to force American businesses to consume not the cheapest forms of energy, but rather more expensive and less economical forms of energy. They take one of four forms:

The Manhattan Project

Most programs call for the U.S. government to take money from tax-payers and to spend it on scientific research and engineering development to develop new sources of energy, or to make the consumption of new energy sources more “efficient”.

The problem is that these R&D programs will be funded by a political process and not necessarily based on criteria of which programs are most likely to bear fruit on a reasonable time-scale. The R&D that is expected to provide a payoff is already being done by investors or companies that expect to make a mint if they are the first to market with more efficient, less costly mechanisms that satisfy the demand for energy. The works that are not already being done, for the most part, are boondogles with an insufficient probability of a positive return. Essentially, the money confiscated and redirected to this research will necessarily displace investments that would otherwise be made in more profitable or less risky ventures. Thus, these programs are guaranteed to be as big a waste of money as other forays of the government into R&D such as nuclear power plant design and space exploration.

For my theory on why this is so, see my article Government Funding of Science: Inherently Susceptible to Junk and Superstition.

Subsidies for ‘local’ energy sources

Most plans involve subsidies for energy sources that do not use imported oil, things like wind-mills, ethanol and other ‘sustainable’ forms of energy. Essentially, these alternative sources of energy exist, but are so much less economical than imported oil, that nobody seriously uses them. The government’s plan is to subsidize these alternates so that the price demanded from people who are purchasing them is competitive with that of the hated imported oil. There is, of course, one problem with that: TANSTAAFL.

The subsidies must be paid by taxpayers, the same people who, for the most part, are consuming the subsidized energy. The result? The tax-man boosts the cost of energy to higher levels than we currently pay for “imported oil”. If the high cost of gasoline is painful, the cost of ethanol enhanced gasoline will be much more painful. In the end, this is the equivalent of treating the pain caused by a patient’s sore muscles by beating him up.

Subsidies for increased fuel efficiency

The rationale for this scheme is that if we could reduce the amount of fuel consumed, the price of the fuel would go down. However, it assumes that consumers want more efficient vehicles or factory equipment, but are powerless to influence manufacturers and producers to make more efficient machinery. This is, of course, poppycock. People balance fuel efficiency with many other criteria in making their choice. In times of bountiful, cheap energy, they may decide that a vehicle of large mass and carrying capacity is what they want. Increased efficiency generally comes at the expense of cost, or reduced performance in some other area.

Again, the principle of TAANSTAFL applies. By mandating that all products have a certain degree of efficiency, these plans essentially are forcing consumers to forgo other wants, or pay higher prices to purchase equipment that meets their needs.

Paying for Externalities

Currently it is in fashion to blame combustion of fossil fuels for causing a warming of the Earth. Of course, the change in climate causes people to bear costs in the form of reduced crop yields or loss of land to the sea etc. Many of these plans attempt to ‘mitigate’ this damage either through additional taxes levied on fuel consumption or from cap-and trade schemes. Both ideas suffer from flaws:

The rationale for remedying externalities through taxation is thus: Let us say that every gallon of gasoline burned in the U.S. causes $0.25 worth of damage to everybody on Earth. A tax of $0.25 is levied on each gallon of gasoline that is purchased or produced and the money is then spent to compensate the people suffering the damage.

Of course, the reality is quite different. The funds rarely are spent to reimburse injured parties, assuming that the injured parties can even be identified. Rather the funds are apportioned through a political process. A glaring example of this is, for example, the use of tobacco settlement money to pay for athletic programs in government schools as opposed to reimbursing Medicare for the costs of caring for ill smokers.

Cap and trade schemes have their own sets of problems. Under such a scheme, the state sells or issues permits to individuals or businesses permitting them produce X amount of pollution. The owners of these permits are then free to sell permits to those who wish to buy the right to pollute. There are two basic problems unique to these schemes:

First, there is the question of how many permits to issue? Of course, there will be a conflict between those who favor more permits and those who favor a reduction in the numbers of permits that are issued. The process for setting the number of permits will be a political one, and as such only loosely coupled with the actual number of permits that is appropriate, assuming that the number of appropriate permits is even calculable.

Secondly, there is the question of who gets the permits? If the permits are given away, then the state will have to ration the permits it issues. The distribution of permits will again be a political process with connected individuals and organizations being granted a windfall of permits that they can then sell at a great profit. Alternately, if the permits are sold, typically by auction, then once again the problems associated with the state levying taxes to repair externalities will manifest themselves.

Do We Need a National Energy Policy?

To me, the answer is a resounding NO! We no more need a national energy policy than we need a national food policy or a national entertainment policy or a national clothing policy.

The fact is that those who consume energy are already driven by reasons of frugality and profitability to seek the least expensive and most cost-efficient forms of energy out there. In order to prevent people from using oil, the state must force people to pay more for oil than they ever would under a volatile free market scheme. This means that in order to ensure energy the U.S. government must, in effect, force an embargo upon its subjects. Under international law, it is considered an act of war for one nation’s navy to blockade another nation’s sea trade. The fact that U.S. politicians are attempting to carry out such an act of war on their own people – worse that a significant portion of the U.S. population thinks this is a good idea – is quite disheartening.

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.

Should Governments Promote Religious Holidays?

A perennial question that comes up this time of the year is the question of how Christmas should be celebrated in public places, with a significant amount of anger and heated accusations being traded between proponents and opponents of the idea.

The Argument For

Christmas is a major part of American culture, especially since it was heavily commercialized in the late nineteenth century by nascent department stores and mail order businesses. Since the majority of the citizenry in nearly every polity on the local, state and federal levels that make up the United States are self-described Christians, governments universally make concessions to their holy day by refusing to conduct public business on or around that day. In order to maintain vital services, fire-fighters and police-men are paid bonuses for working on that day. Since governments are already marking this Christian holy day, since they are spending extra public monies for it, so why not go the extra step? After all, Christmas is a cheerful celebration marking birth and life, and God knows generally when the state shuts down business to mark an anniversary, it usually is about death; the day a war started or ended, or the day some war-maker was born or something.

Argument Against #1

Of course, a substantial minority of Christians don’t celebrate Christmas as it actually has little to do with Christianity itself. Jesus was not born anywhere near the Winter Solstice. The earliest recorded celebration of Christmas on or about the winter solstice as a Christian holiday occurred in Egypt. Their worship of the holiday bears a strong resemblance to the celebration of the resurrection of Osiris, which were also celebrated on the winter solstice. It is very clear that the leaders of the late Roman Empire folded the popular festival of Saturnalia into the new imperial Christian religion. Much like Jews making a big deal about Hanukkah, and black Americans celebrating Kwanzaa, it is clear that the early Christians made up the holiday to basically have an excuse to participate in the holidays of the non-Christian cultures they were embedded within. The Christians who don’t celebrate Christmas and view its observance as a heresy, are quite understandably upset to see it promoted anywhere. This would have included many of the colonists in new England. As frequent Reason Hit and Run commenter joe observed:

Here is Massachusetts, they had a fight a few years ago about whether the Town of Lexington should be paying to put a nativity scene on the town common. One of the arguments often made was, “What would the Minutemen say if they found out we couldn’t have a nativity scene for Christmas?”

The desired answer was, they would be aghast at the hostility of the government towards Christianity.

The correct answer was, they would be aghast at such a blatant display of papist idolatry, and smash it to bits with the butts of their muskets.

Why should people be forced to pay for blasphemy?

Argument Against #2

Some people pay taxes but don’t like to see the money spent on things that they don’t like, including Christmas celebrations. The reason they don’t approve is immaterial, perhaps they are not Christian, perhaps they are but think that Christmas should be a private matter. These folks are, of course, aghast at the misuse of money. It is one thing to compel people to pay for a good like fire-prevention. It is another to force people to pay for something frivolous like a manger scene. They want their tax money spent on other things, perhaps ensuring that children have adequate health care or for more policemen or better radios for firefighters. If they were in charge the public monies would go to those things and not be frittered away on displays.

Argument Against #3

Of course, a significant number of people aren’t Christian, yet they too have their own ways of celebrating the Winter Solstice. Why shouldn’t they have their traditions celebrated as well? Where should one draw the line? At having the 49% of the population who are non-believers subsidize to 51% who are? 25%? 5%?

Again, why should a man be forced to pay for another religion’s celebrations?

Christmas at Disney-world: Where’s the Controversy?

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?” [asked Inspector Gregory]

“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” [answered Holmes]

“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”

“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.

Every year, Disney-world has a massive extravaganza in celebration of Christmas. This celebration elicits little or no controversy. People don’t file lawsuits or get in shouting matches over their choices of how to celebrate the holiday. Why is that? It’s not that a single individual or sect owns the property. Disney’s board of directors answer to the shareholders, and there are millions of shareholders who own Disney, more than the thousands of voting taxpayers living in Lexington, MA. Surely there must be atheists, Jews, or people opposed to ostentatious displays of Christmas cheer in their ranks. Why do these millions not get angry while a mere ten thousand or so get into shouting matches? The answer lies in the fact that people who are unhappy with Disney’s decision are free to end their involvement with the company. They can sell their shares. They can refuse to give their custom to Disney-world.

But when it comes to government, people are denied that freedom. In his wonderful 15+ hour Commentaries, Robert LeFevre recounts the story of an exchange he had with a town commissioner. At the time, he was a newspaperman, and he was asked to publish an announcement on behalf of the town government to the effect that a local park would be closed to public access on a certain night. The commissioner explained that they had invited a youth group from a neighboring town to have a party of some kind in the park. LeFevre, apparently feeling a little mischievous, challenged the commissioner and asked him by what right he could make such a decision. The commissioner explained that he had been appointed by the townspeople who collectively owned the park. “Aha” LeFevre said, “you see, I know something about the guests you have invited, and they are rough customers.” He told the commissioner that he feared the guests would damage the park, and as an owner he would be on the hook for repairs. Since he thought his ownership share in the park was about to become a liability, he told the commissioner that he would like to sell his share. The commissioner, of course was apoplectic at the idea; “you can’t sell your share!” he cried. Regardless or Robert LeFevre’s concerns, he was a prisoner. So long as he lived within the commissioner’s zone of control, he was yoked to the wagon of state, compelled to go where the commissioner directed it, and forced to yield his back to the commissioner’s whip. As LeFevre predicted, the guests caused a significant amount of damage to the park. The damage was repaired at cost to the taxpayers.

Government Action Inevitably Causes Conflict

By forcing people to bear the costs of government, government officials are setting people at each other’s throats. Rather than being a force for peace and civilization, the government becomes a divisive entity, weakening the bonds of fellowship. People who otherwise would get along and have good relations with each other find themselves driven into conflict.

If the fans of Christmas really which to honor the Prince of Peace, they should eschew government-funded displays in favor of privately funded ones. Otherwise they are nudging society in a more conflict-prone, violent direction.

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.

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.

The Free Market In Action – The Giant Retailers Begin To Buckle

If you purchased a newspaper in the past week or so, you might have noticed a bunch of circulars advertising post-Thanksgiving sales. The stores publicize these sale prices in an attempt to attract customers for what is known as “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving which, by custom, is one of the largest shopping days of the year. These circulars are important; even if the prices are not truly the lowest in the market, the perception of low prices will attract customers. And, in the days when comparing prices across many differently organized and formatted circulars was arduous, retailers could take comfort in the fact that the circular would bring in customers.

Unfortunately for retailers, the rise of the Internet made this practice dangerous: people started setting up websites that reorganized the sales information and allowed people to compare offers easily across stores an multiple product lines. This put the store owners in a quandary; they want to publicize prices to attract customers, but if the bargain hunting becomes easier, they will have to really slash prices to attract customers and their bottom lines will get tighter.

This gave rise to a new Thanksgiving tradition, the lawsuit against price comparison websites:

For the last several years, Wal-Mart Stores and other large chains have threatened legal action to intimidate Web sites that get hold of advertising circulars early and publish prices online ahead of company-set release dates. The retailers’ threats rest upon some dubious legal arguments, however, which may be the reason they haven’t shown a keen interest in actually going to court over the issue.

Wal-Mart has been among the most aggressive retailers in trying to cow consumer Web sites. Last month, it sent a cease-and-desist letter to BFAds.net, a site devoted to publishing Black Friday ads. Wal-Mart sent the letter even before BFAds had published Wal-Mart’s sale prices, so the cease-and-desist letter would be more properly called a “don’t even think about it” letter.

This year, however, retailers are unusually desperate to get bodies into their stores since the consensus is that this year will be an “off” year for retail sales. This desperation has prompted many chains to not attack the bargain hunting websites but to cooperate with them:

This holiday season, chains large and small quietly handed over their circulars to Web sites like Bfads.net and Gottadeal.com to ensure that millions of deal-hungry shoppers see their discounts well before the day known as Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year.

Over the past few weeks, Home Depot, Pacific Sunwear, CompUSA and OshKosh B’Gosh each supplied the sites with an advance copy of its ads, according to the chains and the sites’ owners.

In fact, some retailers even went so far as to check to ensure that their circulars had been published on Bfads.net, contacting the website’s founder when they didn’t see their sales listed on the website.

There are some firms that truly have the lowest price on some set of one or more goods. To these firms, websites life Bfads.net are not the enemy, but rather a powerful and free advertising tool. These firms are embracing these websites, and attracting the bargain hunters into their stores. And, since these bargain hunters tend to be mavens whose recommendations can drive tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people to a store these cooperating firms are ensuring banner years for themselves.

Even the officers of big, bad Wal-Mart recognize this. One even wrote a letter to the owner of Bfads.net, thanking him for bringing customers to Wal-Mart:

“I checked out your site today and yesterday and we pulled some traffic reports — great job … Almost over 43,000 clicks just yesterday alone. … Thanks for giving us a nice write-up on your front page. Keep up the great work!”

This is the essence of the free market. People who depend on the voluntary business of customers must excel at satisfying their customers’ needs to thrive and prosper. While most merchants would love to pay little and charge dearly for their wares, only the ones who charge the least dearly will be able attract the customers they need.

Whoever offers to another a bargain of any kind, proposes to do this. Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of. It is not from the benevolence of the butcher the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages. – Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

So, as you sit down for what is hopefully a nice feast, please remember to give thanks to the wonderful human invention, the one that has allowed our species to spread across the Earth and to enjoy lives that are anything but short and brutal, the concept known as the Free Market.

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.

The Violence Against Non-State Backed Currencies

Yesterday, agents of the FBI raided the offices of NORFED and, according to an email sent by its founder, confiscated all their assets:

Dear Liberty Dollar Supporters:
I sincerely regret to inform you that about 8:00 this morning a dozen FBI and Secret Service agents raided the Liberty Dollar office in Evansville.
For approximately six hours they took all the gold, all the silver, all the platinum and almost two tons of Ron Paul Dollars that where just delivered last Friday. They also took all the files, all the computers and froze our bank accounts.
We have no money. We have no products. We have no records to even know what was ordered or what you are owed. We have nothing but the will to push forward and overcome this massive assault on our liberty and our right to have real money as defined by the US Constitution. We should not to be defrauded by the fake government money.
But to make matters worse, all the gold and silver that backs up the paper certificates and digital currency held in the vault at Sunshine Mint has also been confiscated. Even the dies for mint the Gold and Silver Libertys have been taken.
This in spite of the fact that Edmond C. Moy, the Director of the Mint, acknowledged in a letter to a US Senator that the paper certificates did not violate Section 486 and were not illegal. But the FBI and Services took all the paper currency too.
The possibility of such action was the reason the Liberty Dollar was designed so that the vast majority of the money was in specie form and in the people’s hands. Of the $20 million Liberty Dollars, only about a million is in paper or digital form.
I regret that if you are due an order. It may be some time until it will be filled… if ever… it now all depends on our actions.
Everyone who has an unfulfilled order or has digital or paper currency should band together for a class action suit and demand redemption. We cannot allow the government to steal our money! Please don’t let this happen!!! Many of you read the articles quoting the government and Federal Reserve officials that the Liberty Dollar was legal. You did nothing wrong. You are legally entitled to your property. Let us use this terrible act to band together and further our goal – to return America to a value based currency.
Please forward this important Alert… so everyone who possess or use the Liberty Dollar is aware of the situation.
Please click HERE to sign up for the class action lawsuit and get your property back!
If the above link does not work you can access the page by copying the following into your web browser. http://www.libertydollar.org/classaction/index.php
Thanks again for your support at this darkest time as the damn government and their dollar sinks to a new low.
Bernard von NotHaus
Monetary Architect

For those of you not familiar with the Liberty Dollar, the architect intended them to compete with Federal Reserve bank notes. They currency takes many forms:

  • Specie in the form of silver and gold coins,
  • Bank notes backed by gold and silver in their vaults (in other words every bank note promising redepmption by an oz worth of silver has an oz of silver sitting in their vaults)
  • Electronic or digital money, again backed by specie in their vaults

Each bank note and coin was stamped with a suggested exchange rate with U.S. dollars. This exchange rate was far higher than the value of the metal in the coins, $15.00 USD worth of silver in a coin stamped with a $20.00 exchange rate. The company bent over backward to get treasury department approval and to comply with U.S. currency laws.

So why were they raided? Brian Doherty of reason magazine reports:

I’ve seen a copy of a Nov. 9 seizure warrant on an Asheville, NC, address, not available online, claiming that Liberty Dollars at that address are forefeitable for being connected with money laundering and mail fraud. I have not read the entire 38 page warrant, nor am I 100 percent certain it is connected with the actions in Evansville today, but given that the Indianapolis FBI referred me to the U.S. Attorney in North Carolina, probably so, and that multiple raids were planned or executed re: the liberty dollar.
The warrant explains that the FBI from Aug 2005 to July 2007 were “conducting undercover operations to determine the legality of the American Liberty Dollar currency.” The warrant also notes that von NotHaus sold an undercover agent a Liberty Dollar T-shirt, and that the agent observed von NotHaus driving a 1999 Cadillac Deville. It doesn’t take a trained federal agent to connect the dots here, I suppose. In other words: What-th-what-th-What?

This came after the U.S. Mint made dark warnings that people doing business in this currency were breaking the law.

Furthermore, NORFED is not the first currency backer to be so attacked. Last December, e-gold was also raided, by agents claiming to be going after money launderers.

Is this some plot to shore up the shaky Federal Reserve system by outlawing competition? I don’t think so, namely because government economists all believe that their system is a good stable one. I truly think they believe their propaganda.

The problem is that a system of commodity currency allows someone to do business anonymously. These systems were consciously designed to preserve people’s wealth from the depradations of misguided governmental monetary policy. This protection inherently makes monitoring the flow of money more difficult for government officials. It attracts people who distrust the government, a significant number of which whose fear is based on the victimful crimes they commit. This institutional distrust, in turn, engenders a hostility in modern law-enforcement who are understandably suspicious of people who distrust them.

In the end, it is quite clear to me that it is the hostility of these law-enforcement officers which is the problem. Confusing suspicion of the state with criminal intent, they are convinced that these institutions that have criminals as customers are in fact conspiring with the criminals. So they shut them down, ruining the guilty and the innocent indiscriminately. There is nothing precluding the FBI from reviewing e-gold or Norfed’s records while the firms continue to do business. Shutting them down is as absurd as shutting down the Motel 6 down the road, because it was the preferred resting place of mobsters visiting town.

Neither Norfed nor E-gold are defrauding anyone. Their fees might be a little high, but everyone doing business with them knows what the costs are going to be up-front. The reason that they are being raided and attacked is, in the end, a political one, hostility amongst law enforcement, perhaps egged on by some of the more conventional financial institutions seeking to knee-cap competition. As such, these raids should be condemned.

Update:

Ron Paul Radio interviews von NotHaus, who claims that the FBI agent in charge told him that the Department of Justice ordered the confiscation of all assets because the currency was illegal:

http://www.ebacherville.com/cgi-bin/uploaded/FINAL-LibertyDollarNotHaus11152007.mp3

Update II:

The search & seizure warrant have been posted by NORFED:

The search warrant orders the seizure of all records, all printing equipment, computer hardware and media, devices used to manufacture the coinage and notes, and somewhat sinisterly membershiplists of all Liberty Dollar Regional Currency Officers, Liberty Dollar Associates, Merchants who have registered themselves as accepting Liberty Dollars, and any individuals that have purchased the currency.

The seizure warrant states that

American Liberty Dollar and/or Hawaii Dala currency and/or percious metals of gold, silver, copper , platinum or other substance and Unites States currency are forfeitabls to the United States under 18 USC  §  982 (a)(1) because it is property involved in, or traceable to, money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956 and 1957; under 18 U.S.C. USC  §  982 (a)(3) because it is, or is traceable to, gross receipts and proceeds obtained, directly and indirectly, as a result of mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341 and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343. Authority for this warrant is provided by 18 U.S.C. § 981(b) and 21 U.S.C. § 853(f)

This is very interesting:

18 U.S.C. §  981(b) states:

       (b)(1) Except as provided in section 985, any property subject to
forfeiture to the United States under subsection (a) may be seized
by the Attorney General and, in the case of property involved in a
violation investigated by the Secretary of the Treasury or the
United States Postal Service, the property may also be seized by
the Secretary of the Treasury or the Postal Service, respectively.
(2) Seizures pursuant to this section shall be made pursuant to a
warrant obtained in the same manner as provided for a search
warrant under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, except that
a seizure may be made without a warrant if –

        (A) a complaint for forfeiture has been filed in the United
States district court and the court issued an arrest warrant in
rem pursuant to the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and
Maritime Claims;
(B) there is probable cause to believe that the property is
subject to forfeiture and –

          (i) the seizure is made pursuant to a lawful arrest or
search; or
(ii) another exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant
requirement would apply; or

(C) the property was lawfully seized by a State or local law
enforcement agency and transferred to a Federal agency.

(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of rule 41(a) of the Federal
Rules of Criminal Procedure, a seizure warrant may be issued
pursuant to this subsection by a judicial officer in any district
in which a forfeiture action against the property may be filed
under section 1355(b) of title 28, and may be executed in any
district in which the property is found, or transmitted to the
central authority of any foreign state for service in accordance
with any treaty or other international agreement. Any motion for
the return of property seized under this section shall be filed in
the district court in which the seizure warrant was issued or in
the district court for the district in which the property was
seized.
(4)(A) If any person is arrested or charged in a foreign country

    in connection with an offense that would give rise to the
forfeiture of property in the United States under this section or
under the Controlled Substances Act, the Attorney General may apply
to any Federal judge or magistrate judge in the district in which
the property is located for an ex parte order restraining the
property subject to forfeiture for not more than 30 days, except
that the time may be extended for good cause shown at a hearing
conducted in the manner provided in rule 43(e) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure.
(B) The application for the restraining order shall set forth the
nature and circumstances of the foreign charges and the basis for
belief that the person arrested or charged has property in the
United States that would be subject to forfeiture, and shall
contain a statement that the restraining order is needed to
preserve the availability of property for such time as is necessary
to receive evidence from the foreign country or elsewhere in
support of probable cause for the seizure of the property under
this subsection.

Now, what is interesting is that there is supposed to be a hearing, wherein a person can hear the claim and attempt to rebut it, unless:

(3) A temporary restraining order under this subsection may be entered upon application of the United States without notice or opportunity for a hearing when a complaint has not yet been filed with respect to the property, if the United States demonstrates
that there is probable cause to believe that the property with respect to which the order is sought is subject to civil forfeiture and that provision of notice will jeopardize the availability of the property for forfeiture. Such a temporary order shall expire not more than 10 days after the date on which it is entered, unless extended for good cause shown or unless the party against whom it is entered consents to an extension for a longer period. A hearing requested concerning an order entered under this paragraph shall be held at the earliest possible time and prior to the expiration of the temporary order.

while  21 U.S.C. § 853(f) permits seizure of property without a trial:

 (f) Warrant of seizure

The Government may request the issuance of a warrant authorizing
the seizure of property subject to forfeiture under this section in
the same manner as provided for a search warrant. If the court
determines that there is probable cause to believe that the
property to be seized would, in the event of conviction, be subject
to forfeiture and that an order under subsection (e) of this
section may not be sufficient to assure the availability of the
property for forfeiture, the court shall issue a warrant
authorizing the seizure of such property.

There’s only one problem – the law is one that pertains to Food and Drugs.  Obviously, NORFED is not involved in drug trafficking.

I am not a lawyer, so I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that the forfeiture process under the FDA statutes is far less burdensome to the state, and the odds are more heavily stacked against the defendant.  Is the Federal Governemnt violating its own rules by seizing property that falls under the money-laundering statutes using the process for narcotics related seizures? Doug?

It also seems to me that von NotHaus is giving some very bad legal advice.  A class action lawsuit will go nowhere – becasue the claimants will have no standing.

The laws for money-laundering related seizures permit “innocent owners” to file claims with the government.  If they jump through the right hoops, they may get their property back.  The courts will reject any class action lawsuit and instead require people to prove their claims through the regular channels.

More worryingly, the law for narcotics related seizures has no provision for innocent owners, at least that I could find.

Furthermore, the narcotics statute has this littlegem:

(k) Bar on intervention
Except as provided in subsection (n) of this section, no party
claiming an interest in property subject to forfeiture under this
section may –
(1) intervene in a trial or appeal of a criminal case involving
the forfeiture of such property under this section; or
(2) commence an action at law or equity against the United
States concerning the validity of his alleged interest in the
property subsequent to the filing of an indictment or information
alleging that the property is subject to forfeiture under this
section.

Basically, the people who own liberty dollar notes will have to petition the government for redemption of the silver, prove that they did not break the law, to have any hope of getting their money back.

The suit will be costly in time and money, and unless you are sitting on a huge pile of NORFED notes not worth your time.

I think NORFED has just been killed.  Even if the seizure is eventually found to have been unjustified under the law, and the staff be found innocent of any wrongdoing, NORFED is out of business.

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.

Ron Paul and the Nazis: My Take

Lately there has been a great deal of brouhaha about Ron Paul’s support amongst white-supremacists and the, er, “racially aware” types that frequent Stormfront. Make no mistake, the support is real. Now, these guys support Ron Paul because they like his policies. The white supremacists are actually making a serious mistake in supporting Ron Paul; their conclusion that his policies are advantegous to the advance neo-Nazi cause is the result of very shallow thinking.

To a Nazi, Ron Paul’s policies at first seem great: he’s against the Federal Reserve banking cartel and against open borders.

The support for his Federal Reserve policy comes from the populism and anti-capital attitudes of the main forms of white-supremacism. Add to that the frisson from the meme “bankers = jews”, and the deluded idiots think that Ron Paul is going to strike a blow against race-enemies.

Then there’s Ron Paul’s opposition to open immigration. I think the Nazis view immigration, especially of hispanics, as a brown sea of untermenschen that are going to drown the white race or somesuch.

Thus they think that, in the current political environment, Ron Paul’s proposed courses of action and the white-supremacist desired courses of action are tangential.

It is clear to me that Ron Paul’s policies should be anathema to white-supremacists. The fact is to make the racist policies work, particularly one modeled on the National German Socialist Workers Party, you have to have a central bank, and you have to have a militant foreign policy and a government that confiscates property at a whim.

Ron Paul wrote a book that explains why he entered into politics, and what his goals are, and frankly any white-supremacist supporters are in for a nasty surprise:

I decided to run for Congress because of the disaster of wage and price controls imposed by the Nixon administration in 1971. When the stock market responded euphorically to the imposition of these controls and the closing of the gold window, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many other big business groups gave enthusiastic support, I decided that someone in politics had to condemn the controls, and offer the alternative that could explain the past and give hope for the future: the Austrian economists’ defense of the free market. At the time I was convinced, like Ludwig von Mises, that no one could succeed in politics without serving the special interests of some politically powerful pressure group.

The book quotes extensively from Paul’s hero Ludwig von Mises’ comprehensive textbook on economics, Human Action:

Men must choose between the market economy and socialism. The state can preserve the market economy in protecting life, health, and private property against violent or fraudulent aggression; or it can itself control the conduct of all production activities. Some agency must determine what should be produced. If it is not the consumers by means of demand and supply on the market, it must be the government by compulsion.

and

Aggressive nationalism is the necessary derivative of the policies of interventionism and national planning. While laissez faire eliminates the causes of international conflict, government interference with business and socialism create conflicts for which no peaceful solution can be found. While under free trade and freedom of migration no individual is concerned about the territorial size of his country, under the protective measures of economic nationalism nearly every citizen has a substantial interest in these territorial issues. The enlargement of the territory subject to the sovereignty of his own government means material improvement for him or at least relief from restrictions which a foreign government has imposed upon his well-being. What has transformed the limited war between royal armies into total war, the clash between peoples, is not technicalities of military art, but the substitution of the welfare state for the laissez-faire state.

and finally,

Interventionism generates economic nationalism, and economic nationalism generates bellicosity. If men and commodities are prevented from crossing the borderlines, why should not the armies try to pave the way for them? . . . The root of the evil is not the construction of new, or dreadful weapons. It is the spirit of conquest.

The book makes it clear that Ron Paul is devoted to adopting the policies of Ludwig von Mises. What is the relationship of Ludwig von Mises to Nazism? Well, in Austria in the 1920’s and 30’s, Ludwig von Mises prevented the nation from adopting the economic platform of the NDASP. His speeches and essays were so devastatingly critical of Hitler’s economic policies that when the Nazis entered into Vienna one of the first things they did was to break into the offices of a the Jewish economist and confiscate his papers and books. Had he not wisely fled to Swizerland, they likely would have arrested and liquidated him. To the Nazis, Paul’s hero was an enemy to be eliminated if they ever could get their hands on him.

Should Ron Paul repudiate the support of Nazis, white supremacists, bull-dykes and Methodists,and return their money? I don’t think he needs to. Ron Paul has made it quite clear that he is advocating a set of principles and he is not seeking power for power’s sake. thus, I don’t think you will see him adopting Nazi policies in order to maintain his grip on power. On the other hand, it would probably be to his advantage to make light of their support in a humorous way, for example by saying something like “these guys must not have even glanced at my position papers if they think my policies will help their cause, but if they want to give me money to make a less-racist society, I’ll take it.”

Certainly, Ron Paul’s tireless advocacy of Misesian principles is a sufficient repudiation for me.

Update :

My response to some of the commenters, including Mr Duke is posted here.

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.

Government Funding of Science: Inherently Susceptible to Junk and Superstition.

I recently discovered the thoroughly enjoyable podcast put out by Skepticality magazine, and was browsing through some past ‘casts, when I stumbled across an interview (in Podcast #59) with Lori Lipman-Brown, a lobbyist in the employ of the Secular Coalition of America. The interview was pretty wide ranging, but at one point it focused on a battle in the U.S. House of Representatives concerning stem cell research. She recounted how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had attempted to use an interpretation of Christian theology to buttress her position. She criticized Nancy Pelosi as follows:

“We were flabbergasted when we heard her start saying that ‘stem cells are a gift from God’ and that ‘stemcell research is biblically based’ in her arguments. I mean she was going to vote the right way, but this was her argument to get other people to vote the right way. And the reason this is really horrific is-our argument is whether or not you allow stem cell research to progress shouldn’t be based on your theology, because if it is just a competition between whose theology is right. I mean President Bush, when he vetoes these bills, he bases it on God and the Bible also and his interpretation. … Making this a competition of whose theology wins is not appropriate. What you need to do is to say ‘Look this is science, this is not – we can’t have the government imposing anyone’s theology – you know, this is research, this is not about what someone’s religious belief is.” – I transcribed this myself – any deviation from what was actually said is a mistake rather than malice – tarran

In effect, she was opposed to a minority being able to block some bit of government funding for research based on moral objections rooted in superstitious beliefs.

Roman Scientific Research Into Agricultural ForecastingThis seems a reasonable position at first blush, but is, in fact, a highly immoral and, frankly impossible proposition. Let us turn to our old friends the Nazis for a demonstration, since they make for great reductio ad absurdum argumentation. » 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.
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