Still Locked, Loaded, and Liquored-Up

laissezfirearm

Mark Penman was a hardcore libertarian who was funny as hell.  He committed suicide in July of 2001.  Earlier that year he had given me permission to republish his articles at No Treason.  I downloaded his entire web site after his death, and when his site went dark some time later I resurrected it within NT’s domain so people would still have access to it.

Having recently brought NT back I was looking into whether I should put Penman’s site back up. Happily, I see that someone else has already restored the entire site at  http://laissezfirearm.info/

Enjoy!

What Sort Of Rapist Are You?

I know many libertarians who think there is really no such thing as a left libertarian; I’m not one of them.

For instance, Charles Johnson (aka Rad Geek) is certainly a man of the left and certainly a libertarian. I’ve read his posts for years and he says many wise and reasonable things with which I fully agree.  Sometimes though, his leftist commitments have him saying things I can make no sense of.

From an article Rad wrote with Roderick Long:

When radical feminists say that male supremacy rests in large part on the fact of rape—as when Susan Brownmiller characterizes rape as “a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear” (Against Our Will, p. 15)—libertarians often dismiss this on the grounds that not all men are literal rapists and not all women are literally raped. But when their own Ludwig von Mises says that “government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action,” that it rests “in the last resort” on “the employment of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen,” and that its “essential feature” is “the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning”, libertarians applaud this as a welcome demystification of the state. Libertarians rightly recognize that legally enacted violence is the means by which all rulers keep all citizens in a state of fear, even though not all government functionaries personally beat, kill, or imprison anybody, and even though not all citizens are beaten, killed, or imprisoned; the same interpretive charity towards the radical feminist analysis of rape is not too much to ask.

– from Libertarian Feminism: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

I don’t think the attempt to parallel “all men keep all women in a state of fear” with “all rulers keep all citizens in a state of fear” works at all.

A “ruler’ in this sense is a ruler by choice. All such rulers intend to rule, they all freely choose to engage in unjustified aggression, whether they understand it to be unjustified aggression or not.

Can we reasonably say that all men freely choose to keep all women in a state of fear? I didn’t choose to be a man, nor do I think the fact that I’m a man commits me to keeping all women in a state of fear.

When Rad says,  “…libertarians often dismiss this on the grounds that not all men are literal rapists and not all women are literally raped”,  I find the use of the word “literal” particularly striking.  He could have simply said not all men are rapists and not all women are raped, but that would not really suit his analogy to government functionaries. When an IRS agent, or some other state functionary, directs you to do something as a legal part of his job you are under the threat of force to comply, so each such individual directs violence against you in a very real sense.

If his analogy is sound it would seem that Rad, a man, considers himself *some* sort of rapist, or at least someone who keeps all women in fear by invoking violence against women.

I’n that case it seems fair to ask Rad what sort of rapist he considers himself to be, and why he chooses to keep all women in a state of fear.

Seven Habits Of Highly Affective Libertarians

7habits

 

1. Be A Dandy

For unfathomable reasons, many find foppishness disarming. A disarmed individual is a pliable individual.

2. Focus On Style Over Substance

Substance can often be divisive, but Style never goes out of fashion.

3. Hug It Out

Gentle physical contact can induce a mild, warm, emotional haze in others which makes it easier to to bypass their critical faculties.

4. Tell People You Admire Them (Even When You Don’t)

The gentle lubricant of fawning flattery will often predispose others to accept whatever you say. It sounds silly, but it works wondrously.

5. Steer Inconvenient Arguments Offline

When posting online you may sometimes find that certain objections from others make your own argument look bad. When you see this starting to happen, make every effort to entice critics to present their full argument to you at length in private conversation – where others need not be disturbed. Listen attentively to their concerns while lavishing attention on any sore spots to help them get it out of their system. Critics become far less disagreeable during a soothing intellectual refractory period.

6. The Charm Offensive

Integrate all of your affective tactics into a unified coherent campaign. Each verbal flourish and rhetorical caress should ideally seem to flow naturally from a single enchanting pool of serene wisdom.

7. Remember: It’s Not Really About Libertarianism

In truth, few find libertarianism attractive, but the charm offensive of a consummate dandy has it’s own rich rewards.

NT:TNG

Welcome to No Treason: The Next Generation.

Aside from a reboot in 2012 that lasted about six months, No Treason has been dormant and mostly unavailable for seven years. But now we’re back, and this time it’s for all the marbles. Or something.

Not only are we back, but we have fresh blood (Or is it fresh meat?): We are pleased to welcome Nathan Byrd as the first new blogger at No Treason in many years. (We would appreciate it if you held off on telling him what happened to all the other bloggers, at least for a while. (He’s so *new*…))

Byrd already has two articles ready for you perusal: Taxation As Penalty and Law and Order, part 1. I know what you’re thinking: “Part 1?” That’s right, he’s doing a series! Is this great or what?

I therefore invite the fans of No Treason to welcome our newest blogger as only they can, and I’m reasonably confident he may survive the process.

Make it so.

Law and Order, part 1

In recent years, there has been a greater awareness of the dynamics of the police, especially in relation to race, but also in regards to the militarization of the police over time and perceived abuses of police authority.  Sites like CopBlock, FilmingCops, TheFreeThoughtProject and others routinely collect and display audio/video, news stories, and public records that document these incidents.  Others are a continuation of efforts going back decades, such as Radley Balko’s ‘The Agitator’ blog.  (Balko is also the author of ‘The Rise of the Warrior Cop’ (2014).)

Libertarians are not new to this discussion by any means, and there are other political groups that have weighed in on these issues for many decades, even centuries.

The response from liberals and conservatives tends to follow certain predictable patterns.  The liberal response is a familiar “more regulation, better demographic representation, federal oversight of state and local police abuses,” while the conservative response tends to either deny that a problem exists or to blame victims of abuse (either individually or collectively, or both, depending on the circumstance), or even to suggest that the police are actually too weak.  (One can easily see the parallels to attitudes towards military action, though that’s not the direct subject of this series.)

What I want to focus on in this series is the particular attitude expressed by many conservatives about the role of law, of authority, of obedience, and of order.  In brief, there are several core beliefs that can be loosely described as a ‘law and order’ mentality.

1. Without law, people would act as they saw fit.

2. This would lead to chaos.

3. We need laws. (Derived from 1 and 2)

4. Fortunately (or providentially), we are a nation of laws.

5. Law is meaningless without enforcement.

6. Enforcement requires enforcers (which means, people invested with enforcement authority).

7. Disputes of law must take place in courts.  (Derived from 1 and 2)

8. Therefore, every citizen has a duty to submit to the authority of enforcers, even in cases where the enforcers are not actually obeying the law.

There are some unstated assumptions in here, as will be obvious to most libertarians who have dealt with Hobbesian arguments.  For example, it’s assumed that having law requires having a single source of law, a single enforcer of law, and a single interpreter of law.

Note also that this argument makes no reference whatsoever to the content of the law.  It does not require that the law be just.  In fact, it is often difficult to understand the concept of an ‘unjust law’ in this view as it is almost reduced to a contradiction in terms.  Justice is viewed as that which promotes order, and since laws promote order (and are very nearly treated as the only source of order), an unjust law would be something that both promotes and detracts from order.  At best, one could talk about a ‘bad’ law or an ‘ineffective’ law.

Of course, the natural counter-examples to this idea would be familiar ones that even conservatives readily acknowledge: the Fugitive Slave Law and the Nazi Jewish regulations.  In both cases, it seems obvious that no one had a duty to obey (or enforce) those laws, and indeed, it’s easy to view those who resisted them as heroes.

This is not a very effective way of casting doubt on the ‘law and order’ mentality, though, as they tend to simply dismiss such examples as outliers that should not be used as a basis for critiquing laws in general but, rather, oppressive regimes.  Similarly, pointing to North Korea or the Stasi does not seem to cause any doubt in their minds.  Perhaps the specter of anarchy and chaos is so apparent, and the distance between present circumstances in the West and those in North Korea so great, that this does little to unsettle their position.

Alternately, one can try to defeat this approach by embracing it.  Specifically, one could argue that the way that the police operate is actually against the Constitution and not a faithful representation of its principles.  (For example: http://www.constitution.org/lrev/roots/cops.htm)  Unfortunately, this approach requires convincing them of certain principles of Constitutional interpretation, and that may prove at least as difficult as any other approach.

Yet another method is the historical appeal, since conservatives are rhetorically wedded to the founding of the country and cannot easily dissociate themselves from the stated principles and actions of its founders.  Thus, one can show that many of the founders were, in fact, law breakers and saw no duty to comply with British law when it was deemed unjust.  In fact, it can easily be argued that the tradition of dissent and disobedience is far more American than that of compliance and obedience.  Most of the arguments listed at the beginning here are those that we see coming from the British officials at the time, not the American colonists.  And thus, the ‘law and order’ approach appears to be a Redcoat tradition, not a truly American one.

I think that can be a promising approach, but it can also be dismissed on various grounds.  Unfortunately, those grounds tend to be nativist, race-/culture-realist, or some other equally disturbing version.  The only good result of that response is that it exposes some of the underlying, unstated beliefs.  But ultimately, it tends to reduce to typical liberal-vs-conservative arguments over crime and race.

What I’m proposing to do instead of the approaches mentioned already is the following:

In Part 2, I will show that the ‘law and order’ argument is a subtle variation of the Divine Command Theory of ethics.

In Part 3, I will look at the broader category of Ethical Subjectivism, of which Divine Command Theory is an example, and what its key weaknesses are.

In Part 4, I will argue that most ‘law and order’ advocates would ordinarily reject Ethical Subjectivism and instead embrace some version of Moral Realism.

In Part 5, I will conclude by adapting the conclusions of Parts 3 and 4 to show that ‘law and order’ arguments put their advocates in a difficult position where embracing ‘order’ as an ultimate societal value is a genuine threat to the realization of other core values and beliefs that they hold and have even greater desire for society to embrace and reflect.

Taxation as Penalty

“That the power to tax involves the power to destroy; that the power to destroy may defeat and render useless the power to create;”
– Chief Justice Marshall, McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

“Government taxes what it wants less of.”
– Commonly heard modern-day version

The first statement is generally true, while the second is generally not true, or at least, there is no necessary connection between the two things. Yet, the second is often stated as either a summary or a consequence of the first. Where is the difference exactly, and why do people who think they’re similar make this mistake?

First, why is the original statement true? Well, it’s mostly true, not strictly, axiomatically true in some lock-step logical manner. It’s true, to the extent that it is enforceable, because if taxation is increased to 100% on some product or activity, then there is no economic reason to produce that product or engage in that activity. A tax of 100% on income of any kind would effectively be slavery. (The history of tax revolts shows that you don’t need anywhere near a 100% tax rate to make taxation unenforceable. But there is as long a history of actual slavery, too.)

So, it’s easy to see that taxation can destroy an economic activity. Tax blueberry muffin income at 100%, and you won’t get very many blueberry muffins sold anywhere.

When we look at the second statement, though, we’ve moved from a statement about power and cause-and-effect to one about goals. In short, the first statement is one of means, and the second is one of ends.

Consider the story in The Seven Samurai (1954) by Akiro Kurosawa where a band of raiders plans to take most of the harvest of a local village. The first statement above could be re-stated as such: “The raiders have the power to destroy the village by taking all their food (or enough that they starve anyway).” But the second statement, similarly re-stated, makes little sense: “The raiders want the villagers to produce less food.”

Of course, it may be that the raiders are a combination of opportunistic and sadistic and would really like to see the villagers dead. But it’s easy to imagine that the raiders would be quite happy to have the villagers continue to produce food, even at a higher level, so that they might return season after season and steal from them. This makes perfect sense as a long-term plan, and if anything, the raiders should be quite happy to see the villagers produce more food than ever if that were possible.

Consider another story, that of Robin Hood, wherein a tyrannical usurper taxes the local populace mercilessly. As Rothbard says, the government is a gang of thieves writ large, and there is no essential difference between the two stories in that sense. And again, we don’t see the villainous king wishing for the population to have less income necessarily. He may wish it to the extent that a poorer population is less capable of fighting back, but this must be balanced against the fact that a starving population is not a great tax base, either. All else equal, he wants the tax revenue to increase.

Again, we see that the second statement is not necessarily true, even in cases where taxation is heavy-handed and vicious.

So, why does it seem like such an obvious conclusion to many?

At least partly, it stems from the idea of Pigouvian taxation of externalities. The actions of some (wrongly) impose costs on others. Taxing those actions will thereby reduce (or eliminate) those actions and thus reduce (or eliminate) the costs put on others. Here we have a clear connection between means and ends; taxes are the means, reduction of an activity is the end.  And with this connection, it’s easy for some to then view that means as essentially connected to that end. If you tax something, you must want less of it. Otherwise, why would you tax it? Don’t you know what that gets you?

Thus, for example, corporate taxation is intended to limit the number (and/or the power) of corporations. Taxing capital gains is intended to limit speculation. And so on.

While it’s possible that an individual politician has exactly that intent in mind, I don’t think it’s at all obvious that one implies the other. After all, there are many ways to limit an activity. Regulation is an obvious one. The number of doctors is limited primarily by the monopoly of the AMA and other enabling legislation, not by imposing a tax on doctors. The same goes for immigration, teaching, and so on.

Another reason for the conclusion is that most people assume that political planners intend most, if not all, of the consequences of their plans.  To take an action is to intend the consequences of that action.  But there are at least two problems with this.  One, government policies routinely result in unintended consequences.  In fact, this is unavoidable, not a matter of incompetence or lack of interest in forming good policy.  Two, politicians and bureaucrats have their own set of incentives that have little to do with the stated purposes of whatever legislation they put into place.  (Was the PATRIOT Act written by and voted for by patriots?  Of course not.)

To highlight this second point, consider the role of regulation.  In general, regulation can be thought of as a version of taxation because it imposes costs and can quite easily destroy an activity, either through an explicit ban or through the accumulation of indirect costs.  And so, people also tend to associate regulation with the desire to limit an activity.  However, regulation often tends to concentrate power in an industry, making it easier for certain dominant corporations to keep out rivals.  Often, the regulations are written and promoted by the industry itself in support of this end.  (Obamacare was primarily a gift to the insurance industry, even though it was portrayed as a way to rein in the power of the same industry.)

So, in conclusion, the fact that someone wants to tax something tells us very little indeed about their attitude towards it.  It’s theoretically possible that the intent is to destroy some activity, but given the array of other means available, the presumption should be the opposite until/unless some positive evidence is provided.  Just like regulation, both the intent and the result may be counterintuitive.

A Parliament of Whores?

[Originally published at anti-state.com on December 17, 2001]

Robert Vroman makes some good points about the unfairness of comparing government to the Mafia, but I find it even more offensive when government officials are likened to whores.

It’s terribly unfair to compare government officials to whores. It slanders whores. What have whores ever done to deserve being compared with government officials?

The oldest profession is an honorable one. Whores do honest business trading value for value. Can government officials honestly say the same? P.J. O’Rourke meant to criticize government when he called it a Parliament of Whores, but consider how much better off we would all be if government officials were as virtuous as whores.

If government officials were as virtuous as whores they wouldn’t force their services on you. Whores take no for an answer. If you tell a whore you’re not interested in her services she moves on and looks for someone who is. Try telling your government officials you’re not interested in the services of government. Do they move on? No, they slap you with a bill.

If government officials were as virtuous as whores they wouldn’t bill you for services you didn’t request. Whores never announce “From now on I’ll be providing you with a new service, and here’s how much you owe me for it.”

If government officials were as virtuous as whores they wouldn’t start from the premise that you’re born owing their business something. A whore will never argue “Everybody needs to get laid so it’s only fair for everyone to pay their share.”

If government officials were as virtuous as whores they’d never bill you for services they provided to somebody else. A whore won’t tell you “The guy down the block can’t afford my services but I serviced him anyway. Here’s how much you owe for it.”

If government officials were as virtuous as whores they would never need to know the depth of your pockets. Next time you’re filling out an income tax form remember that a whore’s price doesn’t depend on how much money you made last year.

Because that’s not the way an honest profession operates.

A Parliament of Whores? We should be so lucky.

Libertarian vs. Libertine

There is a temptation for libertarians to make an illogical leap from “Vices are not crimes” to “Vices are not wrong”, and too many succumb to the temptation.

There are many things one should not do that nevertheless should not be viewed or treated as crimes.

Generally, one shouldn’t lie. It would be wrong to tell your spouse you were working late when you were actually at a strip club or out playing poker. It’s not a crime, but it’s wrong.

Identifying a situation where lying would be justified is quite beside the point; the point is we can identify circumstances where lying is wrong, though not a crime.

Misconceptions About Market Anarchists

In a Facebook note, Kyle Bennett lists:

15 Ways You Are Probably Wrong About Anarchists, Agorists, and Voluntaryists

1. We don’t want to turn your government anarchist. That makes as much sense as accusing you of wanting to dye your hair “bald”.

2. We get it, there’s no historical precedent. That tends to be a common problem with new things, yet new things are created every day.

3. We don’t expect utopia. If you think that’s what we’re after, maybe it says more about your idea of the function of government than ours.

4. Some of us live with our parents, and maybe even have a room in the basement. Some of us are parents. Most of us are just adults with lives not too different than yours.

5. Arguing on facebook is not how we think we’re getting anything done, it’s what we do in our spare time. It’s what we do to connect with each other, to exercise our ideas before applying them out in the real world, or just for fun.

6. Convincing you is not important to us, except in an abstract or personal sense. You’re probably not as important as you’d like us to think you are.

7. We’re not seeking consensus, nor to sway the masses. The requirement that our lives be ruled by public opinion is one of the things we oppose.

8. We’re not the ones breaking Starbuck’s windows. We like coffee too.

9. We’re not trying to mooch off the system, we want to be free to produce for ourselves the useful things the system produces, and to do it better.

10. We’re against a lot of the same things you are, and more. We value most of the same things you do, and maybe more highly. It’s our means that are different. When those values and oppositions come into conflict, we don’t make excuses, we resolve it.

11. We’re not nihilists. We’re for a lot more than we’re against, it’s just that the main thing we’re against is so overwhelming it blots out the view of everything else.

12. Solving problems requires work and time. We’re not the ones with illusions of having our wishes fulfilled through documentation and edict.

13. We don’t blame you for creating the system, but we’re amused by how obviously self-fulfilling your prophecy that “we can’t do anything about it” is.

14. We don’t want a violent revolution, we want billions of peaceful ones.

15. “We” are neither a monolith nor a collective. We’re not defined by our label, our label is a recognition of the overlap between our individual beliefs. Extrapolate from it at your own risk.

Confessions Of A Spoontard

At least Anthony Gregory had the honesty to admit how he totally screwed us all, along with any hope for liberty:

“We were on the verge of obtaining a reasonable degree of liberty. We were going to get our taxes slashed and simplified but not abolished, the military budget reduced and the troops brought home, drugs decriminalized and managed via harm reduction, a significant liberalization of immigration controls without totally open borders, new restrictions on the Fed’s central planning powers adopted in 2008 and 2009, some more flexibility on pharmaceutical testing and health insurance, moderate patent reform, a diminution of pages in the Federal Register, prison reform, genuine oversight and remedies for police misconduct, strengthened due process and warrant requirements in national security cases, a plan to phase out massive entitlements, some fair-minded school reform, and a scaling back of federal gun laws. We were on the cusp of this moderate but significant step toward liberty, where we would not get all we wanted, but we would get much of what we wanted. But I ruined it all. I cited Murray Rothbard and Lysander Spooner. I made the perfect the enemy of the good, and now the liberty that was in our grasp is lost forever. Sorry, everyone. My selfish desire to adhere to ideological purity has spoiled our chances at increased freedom once again.”

Imagine My Relief

I accidentally flicked on Hannity tonight and there was Ron Paul’s former son, Senator Quisling of Kentucky, explaining that we really don’t need to lay off any government workers because of the sequester.

Imagine my relief. I was afraid some parasites might actually have to find work in the productive sector….