Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Hearts of Darkness

I recently read* Hearts of Darkness: Why Kids Are Becoming Mass Murderers and How We Can Stop It

This is obviously setting up to be a slightly controversial book from the start. Trying to delve into the psychology of mass killings is fraught with peril.
Hearts of Darkness
This book, however, seems to deliver on its theme.

At its core, the book makes two arguments. Both have merit, but both also lead to questions. At its core, the arguments boil down to this:

  1. Mass killings have become an epidemic, and are a serious issue in their own right that need to be addressed by society.
  2. Mass killings are fundamentally an intersection between the forces of society and severe mental health issues.

I have my issues with both arguments.

First, essentially all statistics on violent crime show that it’s in the decline. So while I’m not going to argue whether or not mass shootings in the dramatic and newsworthy sense are increasing or decreasing [as I haven’t looked at the stats], I’m concerned that the authors didn’t even address the fact that violent crime is decreasing in the aggregate. If you want to make the case that this particular problem is worth addressing, you’d think that including overall crime stats and explaining why this trend increasing in the face of declining crime is worth of a societal response is really necessary.

Second, the argument of the book is quite clear. Essentially all of the killers profiled showed evidence of paranoid schizophrenia. We’re not talking about normal people who went over the edge. We’re talking about crazy people who decided to manifest their version of crazy in a way that causes extreme casualties. But if you assume that these events are increasing, that means we either are seeing an increase in the number of crazy people or we’re seeing something in society that is making crazy people more prone to these events. Unfortunately, the authors don’t seem to justify either argument.

That said, I like the book for its deep investigation into the history of several of these high-profile killers. What they show, with intense research, is that every one of the profiled killers were showing evidence of severe mental schisms. And we’re not talking about depression, or anxiety. We’re talking about hardcore paranoid schizophrenia. Depressed people take their own lives. People who hear voices, or have other similar breaks with reality, are the ones who try to take a bunch of people with them.

The Good:

First and foremost, the book extensively focuses on mental health issues. It essentially states that not all paranoid schizophrenics will become mass shooters. In fact, only a small number will. But it looks into the history of several of these killers and severe mental instability is a pretty darn clear thread woven through their history.

Second, I do like the fact that they don’t fall on the trope of “the kid was autistic, therefore he’s an unfeeling monster” garbage. Yes, autistic people tend to have difficulty relating to others in a “normal” way. No, they don’t lack empathy or concern for others. Autistic people tend to be much less violent than in general. But every time you get into one of these mass killings, the speculation is that the killer is autistic. And in the case of Adam Lanza, it pretty well seems to line up. But the key is that while autistic people tend not to be violent, people who are both autistic and paranoid schizophrenics or have borderline personality disorder just might be violent. Clearly this is an important distinction to me.

Third, this is most certainly NOT an anti-gun book. Despite the fact that the authors are pretty well in favor of gun control, they’re cognizant of the fact that this is not central to the thesis of the book. They do indulge for about 2 pages in the waning portions of the text to suggest that maybe if getting a gun is harder than it is now, that you might see a decrease in these killings. Given the restraint they show throughout the rest of the book, I’ll indulge them 2 pages towards the end.

The Bad:

The “epidemic” claim is not well supported. They throw out a statistic on multiple-death shootings having gone up over the years, but I think to call these “mass” killings in the same vein as a Sandy Hook or Columbine is a stretch. As mentioned before, overall violent crime is in decline over the last several decades, so it’s hard to square this with an epidemic of mass murder. I think if you’re trying to prove an epidemic, the best answer is that with modern communication, we not only know more about these events, and sooner, than we did before, and that in some of the cases the perpetrators were–if not “copycats”–inspired by previous killers. This is made clear in the book, but still I find “epidemic” to be a stretch.

They do a good job of profiling certain killers. But there are many mass killers that are NOT covered here. A skeptical reader is left wondering why not. Now, it could be simple. The authors may simply not have had access to enough medical records or personal history of these other killers to draw a conclusion. It may have been that family and friends or family of the killers were just non-cooperative with the authors. Or, of course, it could be that the authors cherry-picked the ones who supported their premise and left those who did not out. It wasn’t addressed either way, and I think it should have been.

But where the book really fails is to draw a significant conclusion. They clearly have identified a problem and a diagnosis, but when it comes to serious mental disorders, it’s very easy to overreach between acting in the interests of public safety, and trampling the rights of the disabled. After all, a very small proportion even of the mentally ill are likely to go on shooting sprees. How far are we really willing to go to stop this? At best, raising awareness of the issue to identify potential “cries for help” might be the best option, as in a number of these cases, the killers really did need, and express their want of, help to get better.

In their close, the authors point to a number of possible factors leading to this rise. He’re we’re exposed to a litany of the usual suspects. Easy access to guns (and high capacity magazines) is one. Violent video games is another. Leaning left, as they do, they throw out a few more, such as economic issues, globalization, and free speech on the internet. All of these seem to be a bit of a stretch. Hell, they might even want to throw “overpopulation” in there, because more people equals more targets, right? The problem with each of these is that under the right conditions, one can find a study suggesting that these are contributory factors, but it’s never clear just how much of this issue will go away by “solving” any given one of these issues. Nor can we typically agree on the solutions.

Conclusion:

I’m sure this is not an easy book to write. It’s a deeply troubling issue, and one where it’s almost bound to be politicized. Every time one of these events happens, the left and right tend to immediately look for any signs that the killer numbers among the other party. And every time we libertarians see something like Jared Loughner, we immediately worry that someone will assume that all libertarians are going to “go postal” on the Post Office.

This book does a great job to highlight that crazy doesn’t choose a party. And that for the most part, while violent people may kill people, it’s the crazies who are responsible for mass murder. It really is a useful book purely on that point alone. We do have a mental health issue in this country (and other countries do as well), and this is something that should be addressed so that we can help the people at risk of perpetrating these acts.

But the byline of the book includes “and How We Can Stop It.” I think the book fails to deliver on that claim. Now, that isn’t necessarily the authors’ fault. I’m not sure there is an easily-packaged solution that they could put together for us. And much like terrorism, you can win 99 battles out of 100, but that 100th is going to dominate the news cycle. In a country of 300M people, and a world of 7B, the law of large numbers states that perhaps this is simply a problem the world must endure.

At best, they say that these battles are won on the margins, and that with some small changes, like reduced capacity magazines or better control over the sale of violent video games, we might save “some” lives, and that’s better than none. However, I think their politics cause them to minimize the cost to liberty of infringing on our rights to make these improvements at the margins.

In short, the book was a worthwhile read, especially since I see it at Amazon in hardcover for $2.43 right now. At the original print price, though, probably not worth it.
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BOOK REVIEW: The United States of Paranoia

Conspiracy theories are only believed by people on the fringe of American politics? Not so says Reason’s Jesse Walker in his latest book: The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory. Walker argues quite the opposite in his opening chapter: “The Paranoid Style is American Politics”:

By the time this book is over, I should hope it will be clear that when I say virtually everyone is capable of paranoid thinking, I really do mean virtually everyone, including you, me, and the founding fathers. As the sixties scare about the radical Right demonstrates, it is even possible to be paranoid about paranoids. (p. 24)

For those who are hoping that this is another book in which the author’s goal is to prove or disprove any particular conspiracy theory, Walker makes is clear that this is not what this book is about (for the most part). He also makes a point to acknowledge that some conspiracies have been proven true (ex: Watergate among these, see Chapter 7 for more examples), “At the very moment you are reading this, someone somewhere is probably trying to bribe a politician. The world is filled with plots both petty and grand…” (p.21). Instead telling the reader what to believe, Walker tells a history about what people have believed on this continent from colonial times to now and how these beliefs have shaped the political debate and very the culture itself.

Among the earliest examples of American conspiracies shaping politics and culture resulted in the infamous Salem Witch Trials of the late 1600’s. According to the belief at the time, witches conspired together and with the Devil to bring evil to the land. Disease and other misfortunes the colonists suffered were believed to be the direct result of these alleged Satanic rituals. Men and women were accused, tried, and executed with little or no evidence. The legacy of Salem continues today. When some public official is accused with wrongdoing, credibly or not, the accused and his or her defenders inevitably will call the proceedings a “witch hunt.”

Soon after the colonies won their independence from Great Britain and became the United States of America, the citizenry turned its distrust of power inward. Who could be trusted to lead this new nation and how could the people keep another tyrant or a cabal of tyrants from taking control? As it turns out, many of these fears were quite legitimate. Not everyone was satisfied with the Articles of Confederation. There were actual conspiracies afoot to overthrow existing system under the AOC in which the several states had most of the power while the national government had little. An attempted military coup called the “Newburgh Conspiracy” was stopped when George Washington convinced his fellow soldiers that overthrowing the government by force was not the right way to go about changing the political system.

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Reason’s Mike Riggs Interviews Radley Balko on Police Militarization

It’s been nearly a month since Radley Balko’s latest book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces was released. Now Balko is making the rounds with the various media outlets about this subject which normally receives very little attention by the media. As one would expect, Balko has more than his share of critics particularly from the cops-can-do-no-wrong crowd but there has also been a quite positive response by at least some members of law enforcement (particularly former cops who began their careers prior to the SWAT era).

In the video below, Reason’s Mike Riggs interviews the author.

(Note: Link above is taken from Reason‘s site, so if you click through and buy it from Amazon via that link, a portion of the proceeds go to Reason Magazine.)

Radley Balko’s Book, Released Today

Just a quickie here, folks… Radley Balko’s book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, was released today.

It’s no secret that we here at TLP have enormous respect for the work Radley has done over the years chronicling the militarization of police and evisceration of our most cherished rights with it. It’s no surprise that when every podunk police force in the country has their own SWAT team, that those SWAT teams will be a solution in search of a problem — a problem conveniently available in the form of victimless crimes like drugs, gambling, and prostitution. Any tool is ripe for overuse and misuse, but all too often, when the SWAT team is called in, people die.

This book is one of the few that I’m actually going to buy in hardcover — I love my Kindle, and almost everything I buy is for that, but I want to have this book to easily lend after I read it.

(Note: Link above is taken from Reason’s site, so if you click through and buy it from Amazon via that link, a portion of the proceeds go to Reason Magazine.)

Quote Of The Day

Warren from Coyote Blog, on Atlas Shrugged Part II:

The one failure of both movies is that, perhaps in my own unique interpretation of Atlas Shrugged, I have always viewed the world at large, and its pain and downfall, as the real protagonist of the book. We won’t get into the well-discussed flatness of Rand’s characters, but what she does really well — in fact the whole point of the book to me — is tracing socialism to its logical ends. For me, the climactic moment of the book is Jeff Allen’s story of the fate of 20th Century Motors.

I had never thought of it this way. I agree that she had some issues with character development, as so many of her characters seemed to be cardboard cutouts of political positions, and lacked any real humanity or depth. I always said I liked the philosophy of the book, but didn’t think much of Rand as a novelist.

That’s still true, but this is a new way to look at it. She really did do a very good job of world-building in the book. Even so many of her plot articles must have seemed far-fetched back in the 1950’s, yet seem like there’d be no shock to hear them announced tomorrow. And her thesis is clear:

Look around you: what you have done to society, you have done it first within your soul; one is the image of the other. This dismal wreckage, which is now your world, is the physical form of the treason you committed to your values, to your friends, to your defenders, to your future, to your country, to yourself.

The message is simple. The world we have is the world we’ve wrought, by our failure to live according to consistent humanitarian* ideals. And viewed in that sense, her key objective is to show the world, and that her characters are only there to explain the ideals which have brought it to destruction.

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Reinventing Newspeak – The Fatal Error at the Heart of The Little Blue Book

Most people who are passionate about politics wish to convince others to see things their way. To that end, the world-famous linguist and partisan Democrat George Lakoff has written the Little Blue Book:

Voters cast their ballots for what they believe is right, for the things that make moral sense. Yet Democrats have too often failed to use language linking their moral values with their policies. The Little Blue Book demonstrates how to make that connection clearly and forcefully, with hands-on advice for discussing the most pressing issues of our time: the economy, health care, women’s issues, energy and environmental policy, education, food policy, and more. Dissecting the ways that extreme conservative positions have permeated political discourse, Lakoff and Wehling show how to fight back on moral grounds and in concrete terms. Revelatory, passionate, and deeply practical, The Little Blue Book will forever alter the way Democrats and progressives think and talk about politics.

from publisher’s description.

At first blush this seems like a great idea to the passionate person – they’re sure to win all the arguments if they follow the books recipe! But the book’s recipe is not a recipe for winning arguments, but rather a recipe for preventing the reader from losing arguments – from being convinced by the person they are arguing with. How? By preventing them from actually being able to consider the opponents’ arguments by removing the opponents’ language from the reader’s brain.

The book starts off from a profound starting point, that people make decisions based on their moral frames of reference. But then it goes in a very unexpected direction. It instructs the reader to completely ignore the interlocutor’s own moral frames.

  • Use your own language; never use your opponent’s language
  • Be aware of what you believe and repeat it out loud over and over; never repeat ideas that you don’t believe in, even if you are arguing against them.

Let’s contrast these instructions with those of the late Dr Covey who has a great video that starts from the same premise – but argues that to communicate, you must adopt your interlocutor’s frame of reference and to try to understand where they are coming from.

As a method of convincing people, this book is a disaster; it purposes shouting down the non-progressive by denying them any legitimacy to their ideas. One the interlocutor figures out that what he is saying is being ignored, he will probably reciprocate by not listening to anything the reader has to say.

So what benefit is there to the reader to refuse to think like the person they are arguing with? George Orwell explained:

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression  to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods.

The Principles of Newspeak – An Appendix to 1984 by George Orwell

The book is not a recipe on how to convince, but in fact is a recipe teaching the reader how to be intolerant and closed-minded.

Interestingly, this should not be a surprise. In a study of people’s ability to articulate political arguments, progressives had the worst performance when it comes to being able to articulate the ideas of people they disagree with. If you were to ask a Goldwater-conservative to provide you with the argument for Single-Payer Health-Care, he is far more likely to be able to do so than a progressive will be able to make the argument for a free market in health-care.

This book continues the trend, and if adopted by progressives will ensure the continued inability to attract new supporters to their movement… which is a very good thing.

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.

Book Review — The Cult Of The Presidency, Gene Healy

America has a love affair with the Presidency. Unfortunately, that love affair is a codependent, abusive relationship, and one in a very long string of the same. It wasn’t always this way. But to fix the problem, as with most abusive relationships, we need to fix ourselves first — ask what it is we want from a President and whether there’s ANYONE in the field, ANY year, who can provide it.

Thankfully, Gene Healy, based on his book of a few years ago, Cult Of The Presidency, can tell us why we keep picking megalomaniacs. And for a limited time, Cato is providing this therapy for free (in electronic/eBook form)!

In Cult Of The Presidency Healy provides a detailed and informative review of the [lack of] power wielded by the office of the President in the first century or so of our Republic. He then details some of the many expansions of power the office has seized, starting in the Progressive Era and moving forward through the decades and personalities to Bush’s administration, focusing on the enormous change in warmaking powers, domestic spying, and national “Father Figure” on the matters of domestic policy that the executive branch has become. Finally, he discusses many of the changes in Congress and the electoral/campaigning process that have occurred over the last century, moving from a party-elite driven process to the current national primary structure, which has changed the office and the type of person who would seek it. Finally, he offers some limited hope for a future where Americans, through nothing more than a lack of respect and trust in the office and its inhabitants, might eventually walk the nation back from what he hopes is the high water mark of executive power. But he freely admits that hope might just be wishful thinking on his part.

All in all, this was an excellent read. For as much as I try to be informed about history and civics, there was a LOT in here that was new material for me. For example, I hadn’t realized that the politicking process was so different prior to, say, the 1950’s than it is today. I had always assumed that the current system of state Presidential primary votes to nominate a candidate had been the standard for most of our history — it turns out it’s a very recent phenomenon. Much like Restoring The Lost Constitution did for me with the history of Constitutional law, the book took a topic about which many libertarians have bits and chunks of information, and much more clearly and methodically explained the changes both over time and with the specific Presidents involved.

I don’t often have anywhere near enough time to read. This is a book that I am *extremely glad* I finally got around to reading. It’s a book that I’d gladly recommend at Amazon’s Kindle price of $8.49, but with Cato giving it away for free right now, I’d suggest jumping at it immediately.

Book Review: Resonance, by Chris Dolley

By science fiction standards, I’m not exactly an SF buff. A decent amount of the fiction I read might fall into the genre, but identifying many names beyond Neal Stephenson or Robert A. Heinlein calls up blanks. But again I was bitten by the Amazon Kindle $2.99 price point, picked up Chris Dolley’s Resonance on a recommendation, and was very happy I did.

This being a review aimed at people who haven’t read the book, I’m going to avoid spoilers. This makes things difficult in SF, of course. So I’ll set the stage without getting too deep.

Graham Smith is an odd fellow. He’s quiet, behaves in a nearly-mute fashion, and his level of living via routine makes OCD look like a hobby. He keeps notes in his pockets, in his house, and anywhere else he knows he’s going to be reminding him of where he works and where he lives. He does this to keep those things from “unraveling”, his word for when they suddenly and inexplicably change. One day he may live in a house on a certain street; the next he might live elsewhere. One day a coworker might be married; the next she’s single. All this without explanation or even acknoledgement that the world’s changed.

This life seems to work for him until he meets Annelise Mercado, a woman trying to save him from a company who wants him dead. She upends his world in short order. But can he keep her from unraveling?

From there, the book delves into its plot in full force, and since I’m avoiding spoilers, I can’t go any further.

Overall, the book’s two main credits are pace and cohesion. I was surprised when checking Amazon’s page for the paperback to find that the book is over 500 pages — it reads much quicker. The advantage of setting your book in contemporary London over a typical SF novel is that you don’t need to spend a couple hundred pages on worldbuilding, and you can head straight to plot. With much SF (and I’m thinking here of Stephenson’s Anathem), you spend so much time trying to figure out the world that you’re in that you find it distracting from the story. Cohesively, the book also avoids one of the main problems I’ve found in a lot of SF, the reliance on the deus ex machina ending (again, Anathem). I really got the sense that Dolley had his central thesis of the book and its ending planned out before he started writing, and managed to build his plot logically and deliberately to its conclusion.

Now why am I posting this review on a libertarian blog? Well, partly because entirely outside of libertarianism, I’ve learned enough about the readers of this site to know that good SF novels are always appreciated. But there is a slight tinge of the story hanging on corporate/government relations. While that portion of the story isn’t exactly imbued with a libertarian message, it’s certainly interesting to anyone who watches the continued interplay, whether cooperative or competitive, between corporations and government.

Resonance was a well-done novel. I’d gladly recommend it at standard paperback prices. But it’s another argument for the Kindle $2.99 price point. I probably wouldn’t have bought it on the whim that I did at standard prices, and I would have been missing out on a great read. So while I’d recommend it at standard paperback prices, it’s a veritable steal at $2.99. Check it out if you get a chance.

Book Review: Slackernomics, by Dale Franks

Those of you that have been around the libertarian blogosphere for any length of time will recognize the name Dale Franks. His main writing gig is over at QandO, where he spends the bulk of his time writing about the economy. In addition, he’s a bit of a gunblogger, and runs a separate blog for motorcycles.

At one point a few years ago I had noticed a link to a book Dale has written called Slackernomics: Basic Economics for People Who Think Economics is Boring. Given that I’m not the type who thinks economics is boring, but had enjoyed his blogging, I wanted to get a chance to read it. At that time, the book was only available in print at a price above $20. It took a spot on my “buy when I get around to it list”, and sat there for quite some time, but I never pulled the trigger. Then, more recently, it became avaiable for the Kindle at only $2.99 — I no longer had an excuse not to buy it. So onto the Kindle it went, and after several long months of sitting there taking up space, I’ve finally gotten around to reading it.

Slackernomics is a primer on basic economic theory that, as the title suggests, is written for people who think economics is boring. It’s written in a convivial tone, and the illustrative examples that Dale uses reminds one more of Freakonomics than of Adam Smith. Don’t let that fool you, though — the book is not a “sideshow” like Freakonomics — it gets to the heart of the matter. I liken it to be similar to Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in one Lesson”, but written for people who may not be interested in the more formal writing style of Hazlitt. In addition, having been written many decades after Hazlitt’s book, it’s obviously much more up to date.

The book covers everything from price theory, minimum wage & rent control to monetary theory and the business cycle, Keynesianism, taxes / deficit spending, savings & investment, and economic statistics. He continues with a great defense of free trade and a bit of entrance into politics (touching a tad on public choice theory). In all, for being a relatively short book, he hits all the major notes that anyone looking for an introduction to economic thought would need to learn.

But the big question, for readers of this blog, is whether it’s worth it to buy. “Am I going to learn anything new?” And I can honestly say that despite the fact that I read economic books & blogs for leisure, and that I’ve blogged a fair bit about economics myself, I learned some new things from Slackernomics. Dale’s fourth chapter, unwinding the mess of the myriad of economic reports and statistics he’s constantly posting on Twitter, Google+, and at QandO, was wonderful. I’ve looked at many of these reports merely reading analysts *reaction* to the numbers (Higher jobless claims? How unexpected!), but rarely understood which group (public or private) was putting out certain reports nor how they all fit together. For me, a layman who is conversant on a lot of economic theory but not as perhaps on the technical reports, I have never seen an explanation of the reports that come out each week and each month as simple and readable as that chapter. That was more than worth it for my $2.99.

So my recommendation is simple: at $2.99, if you have a Kindle (or a device with a Kindle app), it’s hard to pass it up. You’re almost assured to get your money’s worth from the book. Even further, if you know someone in high school or college that may not have received good schooling in economics (which is, unfortunately, most of them), and who isn’t exactly about to tackle The Wealth of Nations, find a way to get them a copy of Slackernomics. Dale’s writing style will keep them interested.

All in all, it’s a book that lives up to its title, and goes well beyond.

Reading List: Slackernomics and BMOC

For the bargain conscious out there, a couple books recently became available for the Kindle at dramatically reduced prices, and I wanted to pass them along. As an aside, if nothing else this is a great sales pitch for the Kindle — at $139 for the wi-fi only version [which is all you *really* need], the value of free and reduced-price books you can buy may quite quickly amortize the cost of the hardware. The lack of a physical book to print, stock, and ship makes it significantly easier to experiment with lower-cost pricing models, and Dale & Warren’s books below emphasize this.

So I recommend checking out both of the below. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably the type of person who would enjoy both books. Yet even if you don’t, they’re cheap enough to be worth the risk.

Slackernomics – Dale Franks [of QandO]
$2.99

This is a book I’ve been intending to read for a few years, but the >$20 price point for the printed version just made it something that was constantly on my Amazon wish list but never something I’d pulled the trigger to purchase. At $2.99 and without shipping costs, though, it’s a no-brainer. I’ve read Dale and the guys from QandO for years. Dale’s always been clear-headed about economic topics in the past, so while I can’t say I’ve read the book yet, I trust it will be solid.

BMOC – Warren Meyer [of Coyote Blog]
$0.99

I was lucky enough to get a review copy of this book when it came out [review here], and thought the book was an excellent example of a page-turning novel that happened to integrate Warren’s libertarian-businessman point of view. If you like his blog, you’ll like the book, but even if you’ve never read his blog [a sin on its own merits], you’ll like his book.

War and Peace

No, seriously, War and Peace. I found it on the top 100 lists of free Kindle books, and decided that reading War and Peace was one of those things I probably had to do in my life to call myself a serious reader.

Bad decision. As I remarked to a good friend, it was meandering, it seemed to lack any true central conflict about any particular character, and it was infused with a very particularly Russian fatalism. At the end of the day, I had no real emotional attachment or involvement in the story, and the last 20% or so was simply a slog through to be able to say I finished it. To thus my fried replied, “yep, that pretty well describes Russian literature.”

However, one specific attribute of that fatalism I found quite interesting, and possibly timely:

That the peoples of the west might be able to accomplish the military march upon Moscow, which they did accomplish, it was essential (1) that they should be combined in a military group of such a magnitude as to be able to withstand the resistance of the military group of the east; (2) that they should have renounced all their established traditions and habits; and (3) that they,should have at their head a man able to justify in his own name and theirs the perpetration of all the deception, robbery, and murder that accompany that movement.

And to start from the French Revolution, that old group of insufficient magnitude is broken up; the old habits and traditions are destroyed; step by step a group is elaborated of new dimensions, new habits, and new traditions; and the man is prepared, who is to stand at the head of the coming movement, and to take upon himself the whole responsibility of what has to be done.

While I’m not a believer in either the societal or personal fatalism espoused by Tolstoy, one can make an argument that what “had to be done” was to crumble the final vestiges of feudalism’s legitimacy in society. This can’t occur by overthrowing a single despot. Political change of that magnitude must be jarring enough to destroy even the memory of what came before it. Society, like a phoenix, must be destroyed and rise from its own ashes to build anew.

Britain, while still a monarchy, had largely transitioned from a feudal society to a mercantile society. America was still a pre-teen on the world stage. Europe, though, was still fighting the final stages to break off the chains of feudalism and monarchy. The slaughter of the French Revolution produced Napoleon, and Napoleon slaughtered Europe.

Is this what “had to be done”? Millions dead, cities burned, the entire existing social hierarchy torn from its roots? Perhaps it did have to occur. Feudalism and monarchy are stories of powerful entrenched interests and a complacent underclass. It is not enough to cast those bonds off on paper; they must be cast off in the soul. This is not easy to do without a jarring blow.

At the end of the French & Russian war, swaths of Europe had been destroyed, and the people were prepared to accept peace — peace on different terms than had existed previously. Society could now be built on a foundation other than feudalism and monarchy. It needed to occur, but it was only the jarring blow that allowed people to come to terms with what was needed.

War is messy. War is hell. War is cruel and painful. But war works.
-John Fuller, my high school AP US History teacher

At the end of the US Civil War, hundreds of thousands of Americans lay dead, essentially to right a wrong that had been building since before the Declaration of Independence. Was war truly necessary to free the slaves? No, but war was probably necessary to settle, in the minds of America, that the freedom had been won. The Civil War was a black mark on the history of America, but nobody can say that the question of slavery was left unsettled at its conclusion.

Anyone who clings to the historically untrue — and — thoroughly immoral doctrine that violence never solves anything I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler would referee. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor; and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms.
-Robert A. Heinlein

The thesis that a jarring blow is necessary to effect the inevitable social changes that occur over time, though, is troubling to me. It’s troubling because I see significant social changes on the horizon.

Technology has brought us global, immediate, and zero-cost-of-entry communication, cutting the information stranglehold of governments and destroying entire business models in the process. Modern communication and modern transportation have made the world smaller, perhaps finally putting the lie to economic mercantilism. Governments have been debasing fiat currencies for decades since the end of Bretton Woods II, and global financial stability appears to be solely based on nations’ ability to lend to each other [especially to the US].

There seems to be a palpable tension building in the world and it’s unclear where it will lead. Much of that tension has already been seen in Iran, Greece, Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. There is tension both within China and in America’s trade/debt relationship with that nation. Unlike some hyperbolic pundits, I won’t quite put Madison in a category as serious as those just discussed, but a fight between fiscal reality, monetary stability, and the promises of government is certainly brewing — and that fight won’t be pleasant.

The world 25 years from now may very well be a place that people alive today don’t quite recognize. But there are a lot of people invested in this one, who will be very upset to see it change. So there’s only one question, and a troubling one, to ask. What sort of jarring blow is on the horizon to cleanse us of the old ways?

Monday Open Thread — What Are You Reading?

Hey, folks. Slow day here at TLP, so it’s probably a good a time as any to open the floor.

What’s currently on the reading shelves for all of you?

For me:

Just finished:
The American Story, by Garet Garrett. — Available from the Mises Store. I plan on a review of this once I get a bit of time to put it together.

On tap:
Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover – The Great Depression 1929-1941 [PDF], by Herbert Hoover. — I was trying to decide whether or not to buy it, but since I saw it on PDF I figure I’ll need to get around to reading it.

Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead Of The Modern Libertarian Movement

atlas_02

There are few figures in the American libertarian movement that gave rise to as much controversy or passion as Ayn Rand. Love her or hate her, it’s hard to find a libertarian who doesn’t have an opinion about the author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. For many of us, she was the one who lit the spark that sent us down the road toward becoming a libertarian. Even after her death, some still consider themselves hard-core Objectivists in the model of those who gravitated around the Nathanial Branden Institute in the 1960s. For most libertarians, though, while Rand is arguably the most influential moral philosopher, she is also someone who’s flaws, both personal and philosophical have been acknowledged, debated, and argued about for decades.

There’s always been a missing piece of the puzzle, though, and that was that nobody had really undertaken a full-scale intellectual biography of someone who, even today, can sell 200,000 copies a year of her 1,000+ page magnum opus. There were personal biographies by Barbara Branden and Nathaniel Branden, but those both seemed to concentrate on the more lurid details of Rand’s personal life and the circumstances behind the 1968 Objectivist Purge. The heirs of Rand’s estate, meanwhile, have guarded her papers closely in an obvious effort to protect her legacy and reputation. Someone wanting to learn more about Rand’s life, the development of her ideas, and her impact on American politics, had almost nowhere to go that wasn’t totally biased in one direction or the other.

That’s why Jennifer Burns’ Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right is so welcome.

Instead of dwelling on the lurid aspects of Rand’s affair with Nathaniel Branden, and without taking sides regarding the many controversies that followed Rand in years after Atlas Shrugged was published, Burns provides a thorough, well-written and well-researched survey of how Ayn Rand went from Alisa Rosenbaum of St. Petersburg, Russia, born just as Czarist Russia was beginning it’s decent into chaos, to Ayn Rand, the woman about whom more than one person has said “she changed my life.”

For people versed in the history of libertarian ideas, the most interest parts of the book will probably be Burns’s documentation of Rand’s interaction with the heavyweights of both the Pre World War II Right and the conservative/libertarian movement that began to take shape after the war ended. She corresponded with Albert Jay Nock and H.L. Mencken and, most interestingly, developed a very close personal and intellectual relationship with Isabel Patterson, best known as the author of The God of the Machine. For years, especially during the time that Rand was writing The Fountainhead, Rand and Paterson exchanged ideas and debated philosophy, and it’s clear that they both contributed to the others ideas.

The Rand-Paterson relationship, though, also foreshadowed something that would happen all too frequently later in Rand’s career, the purge. Paterson was among the first libertarian-oriented writers to experience Rand’s wrath for the perception that she was not sufficiently orthodox. Over time, that would continue to the point where, at it’s height, Objectivism displayed a level of orthodoxy and denunciation of perceived heresy that rivaled the religions that it rejected. It was, in the end, the reason why the movement’s downfalls was largely inevitable.

Burns also goes into great detail discussing the process and the ordeal that Rand went through while writing both of her great novels. After reading that part, one marvels at the fact that she even survived.

In the final chapter, Burns shows that, even though Rand herself had flaws that led to the demise of Objectivism as a formal movement, her ideas have a staying power that has permeated throughout the conservative and libertarian movements in the United States. There is hardly a libertarian in the United States who has not read at least one of Rand’s books and, it’s clear that her ideas have taken hold in a way that she probably never expected and definitely would not have approved of. That, however, is the power of ideas, the creator can’t control what people do with them once they’re out there.

Burns does a wonderful job of filling in the missing pieces about Rand’s life and her place in the wider context of the political and social history of Post World War II America. Whether you love or hate Ayn Rand – and I don’t think you can have no opinion about her once exposed to her idea – this is a truly fascinating book.

Book Review: Island by Aldous Huxley

I think many libertarians are a bit like myself, and tend to like a good dystopian novel. 1984, Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Anthem, etc. It’s typically a book detailing a future utopian society, where government controls the lives of their citizens for their own good (1984 being the exception there), but the world the book portrays has unintended anti-freedom consequences that show the utopia to be rotten and empty.

Huxley’s Brave New World is a classic example. You have a government that controls every aspect of life, down even to selecting (and disabling if necessary) people into a caste system of people based upon their intelligence, educating (conditioning may be a better word) them from birth to accept their caste placement. They ply the populace with consumption, drugs, and sex to keep them happy and docile, and the result is a country largely free of crime and misery. This is all upset when a “savage” from the outside, educated and English-speaking, is introduced to the society. Being an individual and a freethinker, he quickly tires of the life devoid of emotion and value and starts (after the death of his mother) lashing out. The novel ends when John the Savage finds the only escape from the rot that he has left, and hangs himself.

Island is sort of an anti-BNW, in some rather (I would think) deliberate ways. It tells the story of a remote island, Pala, which had closed itself off to the world — an island which correspondingly had little reason for the world to take note. This is rapidly changing, though, as the island is sitting on quite a bit of oil. One journalist shipwrecks on the island (partly tasked by his boss, newspaperman AND oilman, with trying to find a way to exploit that oil) and starts exploring. He finds a populace where everyone seems to be very happy and well adjusted, a society that is well-run but still lightly-governed. The island is heavily informed by buddhist teachings, and uses early childhood conditioning, community families, sex (tantric buddhist variety) and drugs (of the magic mushroom variety) to expand the Understanding of, rather than pacify, the populace. It is not a society built for consumption, but rather a society built for happiness and self-actualization. The journalist (perhaps best described as a “savage” from civilization) grows enamored with this society, sees what he now understands as rot within his own, and wants to join. *(see below the fold for spoiler)

Island is widely described as Huxley’s counterpoint to Brave New World. It is clear that he sees the same demons (consumerism, a lack of individuality, and a value-less society) and the same fetishes (drugs and sex) in both books, but in Island he sees the impression of positive ethics and values as the difference. He changes the game, using sex and drugs as a way of furthering Understanding, using community family raising not as a way to blunt individuality but a way for children to avoid the parental roullette that often cause them to inherit their parents flaws, and using biological/behavioral understanding to inform educators in the proper ways to help each individual student learn and become self-actualized. I’m not well-steeped in Buddhism, but it appears to be heavily influenced by Buddhist rather than Western thought. The result is a society that, while not perfect, appears to meet the magical middle ground between planning a good outcome without really destroying individuality.

Island paints the picture of a beautiful society, and one that I suspect is a guideline, in the mold of Plato’s Republic**, for his ideal state. From a philosophical perspective I think is definitely something that should be read (although not a plank for any cohesive philosophy), as it contains some practical personal lessons about thought and emotion that many folks might benefit from.

But in another sense, it doesn’t work as a novel. It is a philosophical dialectic much like that of The Republic, and my thought reading throughout the whole aspect was Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged. Very long, and pretty important, but certainly not a page-turning thriller. The novel seems to have very little in the way of plot, the “conflict” takes a far back seat to the philosophy, and the scenes become nothing more than an excuse for philosophical pontificating, not advancing a story. I said after reading it on twitter that from a literary standpoint it was weak and grandstanding, and that it seemed far more like a writer’s first novel than his last, which Island was for Huxley.

As with many books I read, I see there to be value for many readers. But if you go into the book expecting an experience like Brave New World, you’re not going to get it. This is a treatise on humanity and the ideal state, informed by Huxley’s own spiritual and ethical beliefs. As such, it contains useful information on a personal level, to better understand yourself, the society immediately around you, and how you might improve both. It’s not much of a novel, and not something I’d pass off to a friend unless I absolutely knew them to be receptive to this type of book, but it’s worth it for what it is.

The Cult Of The Imperial Presidency

whitehouse

Over the past 30 years, America has seen Presidential scandals ranging from Watergate to Iran-Contra to Travel-gate, Whitewater, the Lewinsky scandal, and the Valerie Plame affair. We’ve learned the truth about some of the truly nefarious actions undertaken by some of most beloved Presidents of the 20th Century, including the iconic FDR, JFK, and LBJ. And, yet, despite all of that, Americans still have a reverential view of the President of the United States that borders on the way Englishmen feel about the Queen or Catholic’s feel about the Pope.

How did that happen and what does it mean for America ?

Gene Healy does an excellent job of answering those question in The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, making it a book that anyone concerned with the direction of the American Republic should read.

As Healy points out, the Presidency that we know today bears almost no resemblance to the institution that the Founding Fathers created when they drafted Article II of the Constitution. In fact, to them, the President’s main job could be summed up in ten words set forth in Section 3 of Article II:

he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,

The President’s other powers consisted of reporting the state of the union to Congress (a far less formal occasion than what we’re used to every January), receiving Ambassadors, and acting as Commander in Chief should Congress declare war. That’s it.

For roughly the first 100 years of the Republic, Healy notes, President’s kept to the limited role that the Constitution gave them. There were exceptions, of course; most notably Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War but also such Presidents as James Polk who clearly manipulated the United States into an unnecessary war with Mexico simply to satisfy his ambitions for territorial expansion. For the most part, though, America’s 19th Century Presidents held to the limited role that is set forth in Article II, which is probably why they aren’t remembered very well by history.

As Healy notes, it wasn’t until the early 20th Century and the dawn of the Progressive Era that the idea of the President as something beyond what the Constitution said he was took forth. Healy documents quite nicely the ways in which Presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Woodrow Wilson to FDR went far beyond anything resembling Constitutional boundaries to achieve their goals, and how they were aided and abetted in that effort by a compliant Supreme Court and a Congress that lacked the courage to stand up for it’s own Constitutional prerogatives. Then with the Cold War and the rise of National Security State, the powers of the Presidency became even more enhanced.

One of the best parts of the book, though, is when Healy attacks head-on the “unitary Executive” theory of Presidential power that was advanced by former DOJ official John Yoo in the wake of the September 11th attacks and the War on Terror. As Healy shows, there is no support for Yoo’s argument that the Founders intended for the President to have powers akin to, or even greater than, those of the British Monarch that they had just spent seven years fighting a war to liberate themselves from. The dangers of Yoo’s theories to American liberty and the separation of powers cannot be understated.

If the book has one weakness, it’s in the final chapter where Healy addresses only in passing reforms that could be implemented to restrain the Cult Of the Presidency. I don’t blame Healy for only giving this part of the book passing attention, though, because what this book really shows us is that no matter of written law can stop power from being aggregated in a single person if that’s what the people want and, to a large extent, we’ve gotten the Presidency we deserve.

Healy’s closing paragraph bears reproducing:

“Perhaps, with wisdom born of experience, we can come once again to value a government that promises less, but delivers far more of what it promises. Perhaps we can learn to look elsewhere for heroes. But if we must look to the Presidency for heroism, we ought to learn once again to appreciate a quieter sort of valor. True political heroism rarely pounds its chest or pounds the pulpit, preaching rainbows and uplift, and promising to redeem the world through military force. A truly heroic president is one who appreciates the virtues of restraint — who is bold enough to act when action is necessary yet wise enough, humble enough to refuse powers he ought not have. That is the sort of presidency we need, now more than ever.

And we won’t get that kind of presidency until we demand it.”

And, if we don’t demand it we will find ourselves living in a country where the only difference between President and King is merely the title.

End The Fed, Save America

It seems improbable that monetary policy could become a “sexy” political topic, but Ron Paul has done it. It started during his 2008 Presidential campaign when he continually talked about the Federal Reserve when asked about the economy, continued through his oft-entertaining interrogations of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, and most recently has culminated his sponsorship of H.R. 1207, a bill to conduct a General Accounting Office audit of the entire Federal Reserve System. It’s all pretty amazing actually; who would have ever thought that people would be getting excited over the Federal Reserve Board ?

In his new book End the Fed, though, Paul provides a clear, concise explanation for why we all need to be worried about the fiat paper money system that we’ve lived under for decades. As Paul says, the system itself is unsustainable over the long term, and Federal Reserve itself has contributed to economic instability in the 96 years since it’s founding.

This isn’t a detailed economic treatise, it’s a call to political action, and Paul does an excellent job of making his case for the argument that we need to bring an end to the monetary system that is, slowly but surely and inevitably, destroying us and destroying freedom. Instead, he argues that we need to return to the days of the Gold Standard, which doesn’t even need a central bank to function properly. You may disagree with the end scenario that Paul proposes, but it’s hard to disagree with his assertion that liberty in money is as necessary for a free society as liberty in thought or property.

Paul’s most important insight in this book, though, comes in his concise demonstration of how the “magical printing press” monetary system that we have today makes possible the leviathan state that is threatening to bankrupt us. Without a central bank with the ability to create money at will and in secret, it’s highly unlikely that the welfare-warfare state would be able to exist. Without free money, the state would be forced to either raise taxes or borrow money to finance it’s ventures and adventures and it’s unlikely that either taxpayers or bondholders the kind of unlimited spending that fiat money makes possible.

What this means is this — you’ll never have a truly limited government as long as you have a central bank with the power to create “money” at will.

That’s why it’s important to End the Fed, and that’s why this book is one that everyone should read.

Taxation And Morality

There have been plenty of books and policy papers written, plenty of speeches and television and radio interviews, about the economic reasons that high progressive taxation is a bad idea. We’ve heard many times about how it restricts innovation by discouraging investments, or how higher tax rates actually have the seemingly perverse impact of decreasing government revenue, while lower tax rates lead to more money in the Treasury. Those arguments have been made and re-made, stated and re-stated, so many times that most fiscal conservatives can restate them on their own.

What we haven’t seen very often, though, is an argument about tax policy from a moral perspective, an examination of the impact that tax policy has on society in the manner that it punishes good behavior and rewards bad behavior. That is exactly the argument that Leslie Carbone takes up in Slaying Leviathan: The Moral Case for Tax Reform, and it’s a welcome addition to the debate.

Through a combination of history, economic analysis, and good old-fashioned common sense, Carbone demonstrates quite clearly how tax policies over the past 70 years or longer have succeeded in sending the wrong signals to citizens and helped to encourage behaviors that have adverse consequences for individuals and society as a whole. In one compelling section, Carbone examines the immorality behind the IRS’s tax enforcement mechanism and concludes with this devastating point:

When a government does to people not convicted of any wrongdoing what the people cannot do to one another, the march toward tyranny has begun. When it takes from some just because they have more than others, when it places its interests in self-support above the privacy of its citizens, when its enforcement of unnatural law is identical to its enforcement of heinous natural offenses, when it can’t even understand it’s own laws, it has shifted from enforcing justice to enforcing injustice and sows disrespect for the Rule of Law. It becomes an instrument of the very wrongs it is instituted to subdue.

That’s the America we live in today.

The book concludes with an insightful analysis of the various tax reform proposals that have been made in recent years, ranging from the flat tax to the national sales tax, and makes clear that only reform that allows the people to keep more of what they earn can ever be considered moral.

For a quick read, this is an excellent edition to the voluminous literature condemning the leviathan that has become America’s tax system.

Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do

THIS BOOK IS BASED on a single idea: You should be allowed to do whatever you want with your own person and property, as long as you don’t physically harm the person or property of a nonconsenting other.

Thus begins a book that everyone interested in politics should read; Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Country by Peter McWilliams.  Published in 1998, it is a damning survey of how the United States had become a state composed of “clergymen with billy-clubs”.  It analyzes the consequences of punishing so-called victimless crimes from numerous viewpoints, demonstrating that regardless of what you think is the most important organizing principle or purpose of society the investigation, prosecution and punishment of these non-crimes is harmful to society.

This remarkable book is now posted online, and if one can bear to wade through the awful website design, one will find lots of thought-provoking worthwhile commentary, analysis, theory and history.

His final chapter, on how to change the system, while consisting mainly of pie-in-the-sky, ineffective suggestions of working within the system, starts of with an extremely good bit of advice that I urge all our readers to try:

The single most effective form of change is one-on-one interaction with the people you come into contact with day-by-day. The next time someone condemns a consensual activity in your presence, you can ask the simple question, “Well, isn’t that their own business?” Asking this, of course, may be like hitting a beehive with a baseball bat, and it may seem—after the commotion (and emotion) has died down—that attitudes have not changed. If, however, a beehive is hit often enough, the bees move somewhere else. Of course, you don’t have to hit the same hive every time. If all the people who agree that the laws against consensual crimes should be repealed post haste would go around whacking (or at least firmly tapping) every beehive that presented itself, the bees would buzz less often.

I highly recommend this book.  Even though I have some pretty fundamental disagreements with some of his proposals, I think that this book is a fine addition to the bookshelf of any advocate of freedom and civilization.

Hat Tip: J.D. Tuccille of Disloyal Opposition.

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.

Buy This Book — Your Stomach Will Thank You

All,

Co-blogger Chris just announced a new cookbook that he and his wife are putting together, heavily based upon a number of recipes that he’s posted on his blog. I still haven’t managed to go and enjoy any of said cooking on my trips into the Phoenix area, but I can say that based on the recipes I’ve seen him post — I’m looking forward to it.

Since the book hasn’t been released yet, I can’t offer any definitive comments. But I can tell you that I’m not expecting The French Chef; rather something more along the lines of 1,001 Ways to Cook Large Dead Animals. Either way, I expect to see a lot of tasty offerings.

Chris mentions that since it will be a limited print run, the best option is to pre-order for a book that will be officially available sometime in the next month or so. You might want to jump on this one quickly. Head on over and take a look.
» Read more

Patches, Security, and Blog Contests

A few weeks ago, I wrote on my personal blog, about an author who had, essentially by accident, trained himself to become an intelligence analyst:

Trevor Paglen is an author, and Dr. of Geography, who developed a fascination for the “black” side of the military some years ago; and started snooping.

His first book on the subject “I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me“, was basically a recounting of his experiences in trying to figure out what mission patches for classified projects meant.

…snipped a video…

His new book is “Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World.“; in which he extends and develops on the methods and means from the first book, into an expanded view of the black world, focused on geography (and specifically logistics, and how they are related).

…snipped another video…

If you haven’t watched them yet, go back to the original post and watch the videos; and be prepared to be amazed at just how much can be inferred about black projects, by simple things like unit patches, and public records.

Amazed, and/or horrified (or perhaps simply resigned and amused), if your job is (or used to be) to keep such things secure…

Which brings me to the fun part of this post.

Dr. Paglens publishers saw my original post, and have graciously sent me a review copy of the book; which I plan to read and review this weekend.

In addition, they’ve offered a signed copy of the book to one of my readers, to be decided by blog contest (smart publicists these ones).

So, here’s the rules and parameters of the contest:

  1. Submissions accepted as comments to the contest post on my blog, from now through Monday morning 12:01 AM

  2. At 12:01 I will pick what I think are the top five posts if we get ten or more, or top ten if we get 20 or more. I will them put them up for a vote to the readers of the anarchangel blog, (and copy the stories here, but it would be a little complicated to have two polls) open from the time I post the stories, until 5pm Monday evening (at which time I will also be posting a review of Dr. Paglens book).
  3. Entries will consist of one each of the following:

    a. Your best, funniest, most interesting, or scariest (from a security perspective) patch, flash, sign, symbol, or insignia story; preferably with a pic, but at least with a very clear description and detailed story.

    b. Your best, funniest, most interesting, stupidest, or scariest (from a security perspective) security story. It can be infosec, comsec, psec, prosec, opsec, doesn’t matter.

  4. Stories do not have to be military or governmental in nature; though I suspect most of the best and funniest will be (governments are even better at absurdity than big corporations), so make it good
  5. Multiple entries from a single individual will be accepted; and if the stories are good, are in fact encouraged.
  6. All entries must be true and correct to the best of your knowledge (notice the out I gave you there).
  7. First hand stories are preferred, and will be given more credit; but a sufficiently good second or third hand story will certainly be considered.
  8. All entries should be either declassified, or sanitized sufficiently to avoid compromise; or in the case of non-military security stories to avoid compromise or disclosure of private or confidential (or higher) information.

Also, although I’m generally not a linker or memer, I would ask that if you find this interesting, please link it up, and forward it around. I’d really love to see what we get.

If there are enough entries, or if people post some REALLY GREAT after the deadline, I might even throw in a consolation prize myself afterwards.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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