The Ron Paul Flap – Short Version

One thing that has been virtually absent from the whole Ron Paul Newsletter shitstorm is the simple fact that racism per se is not incompatible with libertarianism. That fact, brought to light when the newsletters were publicized, would have short-circuited weeks of yelling by both sides. So why hasn’t anyone prominent in the debate taken notice of it? The answer is that the public outrage to such a defense would be enormous.

Neither side in the newsletter flap cares to discuss this, because doing so would be very unpopular. Both sides would rather avoid unpopular truth – it’s of no use to them.

The Ron Paul flap basically boils down to two camps of liars, each of whom claims that the other is, well, …lying.

I’m slightly underwhelmed.

Rational Irrationality: A Self-Proving Theory?

No Treason has written about rational ignorance and rational irrationality before, but it’s instructive and amusing to see what happens when those concepts are presented in a forum with a more mainstream readership:

Some interesting press about a very interesting new book by Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University: The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies.

Have a read through the comment thread there and count the Reason Magazine weblog commenters who are doing their damndest to wish away those two concepts. You’d think that once those ideas were presented, they would pretty much spell the end of the libertarian movement.

Then again, people pay no penalty for ignoring those ideas…

Tip: Jay Jardine

Libertarians Outraged That Rain Is Wet

Or that government is abusive, you know: whichever.

The latest mini power-grab by the Federal government is a yawnfest. In effect, this government has written itself a note that says that they’ll snoop your mail if they really, really want to. They’re also saying that this note supecedes some other notes that they’ve written that stated they wouldn’t snoop your mail without a permission note. No word yet on what efforts libertarian activists will put forth to get this government to write a note that says that the government won’t really read your mail without a permission note.

Do you see what I mean? The fact that this government wrote a note in the first place giving themselves permission to do a number of things implies that they’ll write themselves a note to allow them to do whatever they want whenever they want to. Any note they write to the contrary can be replaced by yet another note.

And libertarian activists are outraged by all of this? It’s frankly amusing.

How To Fight A Parking Ticket

Let me tell you how I fought and won my most recent parking ticket. The ticket was for parking across two seperate spaces, of which I was guilty as charged. This was one of those weird parking lots that was obviously laid out at 4:00 on the Friday afternoon before the big ball game. The particular spaces I was occupying were situated in an odd corner of the lot, where if you park properly, other cars will block you in when they park properly. So you don’t park inside the lines, you park at a 45-degree angle. Everyone does this, but I got the ticket.

Well, I took that little slip of paper out from under the wipers and I wrote them a nastygram on the back. It went something like: “What’s this nonsense? I parked across two spaces because you have to. This parking lot is laid out such that…”, followed by a detailed explanation. I carefully refrained from profanity, but otherwise I let them have it for giving me the ticket. I then delivered said ticket with said nastygram to the office of the cognizant authority and washed my hands of the matter.

Next day, at work, I get a call from said authority. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “This is John.”
Authority: “Hi John, this is Susan. We’re very sorry for the parking ticket, it won’t happen again. There’s a new officer on patrol and he’s trying to make a good impression.”
Me: “I understand. Thanks.”

That’s right: the agency that issued me that ticket got it stuffed right back into their collective face and then apologized to me. Matter of fact, some months later the lot was re-painted with diagonal spaces, as it should have been all along. Now that’s how you fight a parking ticket.

Does this story seem a little implausible to you? Hopefully it does, because I held back one key detail: The authority mentioned above wasn’t the local government, it was the management of my apartment building.

You can contrast this with a city parking ticket. Can you imagine what would have happened should I return one of those with a nasty note written on it? I’d be lucky not to have an additonal fine tacked on for smart-mouthing the meter maids and/or not be charged with some sort of crime.

And so that’s how you fight a parking ticket: you make sure that the agency that issues it answers to you. In the case of the apartment building, they very much answer to me: they’re the vendor and I’m the customer and they have a financial motivation to keep me happy. Pissing off your customers with bullshit parking tickets is not a sound business decision. As for fighting a government ticket, well, since they can bring overwhelming force to bear on me should I choose to resist them, it’s a pretty good bet that I’ll be meekly paying for any ticket that’s sent my way.

“He said the moment he captured was a tender, humane one.”

That’s what one Justin Cook, credentialed photographer for the Durham Police Department’s SWAT team, had to say about this heartwarming photo. Radley Balko directly quotes the photographer like so:

There is not much for me to say other than that during a chaotic day, this one moment was an ironic sliver of compassion and humanity.

Of course there isn’t so much compassion and humanity present that it deserves to actually stay in public view, or anything. At this time, it appears that the links to the photo and to the original post aren’t working. “Caption witheld at request of photographer.” says yet another reference. In addition, Cook apparently accused Balko of libel(!) merely for publicizing the photo at all. It seems clear that the photographer is attempting to bury his own photograph.

Who attempts to bury a prize-winning photo that they judge captures a moment of compassion and humanity?

The photo captured a tender moment of compassion, it doesn’t exist anyway, and you’re libelous if you mention it besides. How much more clear do we need to be that there is absolutely nothing to see here, Citizen?

The Irony Of (Self)Defeat’s Stephan Kinsella recommends John Derbyshire on immigration. Derbyshire lectures libertarians thusly:

As to why I think libertarians are nuts to favor mass uncontrolled immigration from the third world: I think they are nuts because their enthusiasm on this matter is suicidal to their cause. Their ideological passion is blinding them to a rather obvious fact: that libertarianism is a peculiarly American doctrine, with very little appeal to the huddled masses of the third world.

Kinsella echoes Derbyshire at the LRC blog that

… libertarians are nuts to want a more open immigration policy, since it’s self-defeating.

What Derbyshire and Kinsella both miss is that libertarianism has very little appeal to Americans in the first place. Forget about immigrants for a second: how well has the American public been swayed by this “peculiarly American doctrine”?

Answer is not at all, collectivism has won on all fronts and continues to be a landslide winner every election. Even counting every Libertarian Party candidate, even the ones clamoring for more taxes, as a “libertarian”, it’s clear that libertarian ideas have been handed decades of resounding defeats. The open borders issue isn’t self-defeating for libertarians because libertarians have already lost.

For clues as to why, we don’t need to look further than the fact that Kinsella and Derbyshire themselves are arguing for nothing more than a particular collectivist public policy on the grounds that this policy will advance the libertarian cause. Our self-appointed libertarian strategists are proceeding on the assumption that more collectivism now will manufacture more libertarianism later, and they can still talk about “self-defeat” with a straight face.

Root Causes

At the blog, Daniel McAdams notes some disconnects in regards to Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s recent firing:

Said Rumsfeld, “The first war of the 21st century is not well-known, it was not well-understood, it is complex for people to comprehend.”

OK, I’ll bite. One: US participation in this new kind of war has in duration nearly surpassed US participation in World War II. Is that not enough time to adequately explain to the American people the nature of this new kind of war? And if after all that time they still cannot comprehend it, one can only wonder if the flaw is in the terminally stupid student, or an incompetent teacher.

Two, and most important. If Bush and Rumsfeld were so determined to redirect our understanding of this war away from the old, WWII model and to a new kind of thinking, exactly why is it that both Bush and Rumsfeld continuously cite World War II when explaining the the war on Iraq and Afghanistan?

Let’s see what kinds of answers we can find to those questions. The “student” in this case (the electorate) isn’t necessarily terminally stupid, but definitely has no incentive at all to pay serious attention to the Iraq war. Think for a second: do you get a better Iraq war if you pay attention to it? No, you get whatever Iraq war that this government serves up. You can devote all the time and effort you care to into studying military history and tactics, Arab culture, or what have you, and at the end of the day you get the same Iraq war as everyone else.

The “teachers” in McAdams’ analogy (the various elected government officials) not only have to “teach” such students, but at the same time have to deal with the fact that their students can fire them every couple of years. Faced with an overwhelmingly uneducable “student body” that has veto power over their jobs, is it any wonder that the “teachers” devote far more time to placating the students than trying to teach them? What kind of school lets the students continue to attend if they openly refuse to learn, anyway?

It’s no wonder that Rumsfeld and Bush tried to sell the Iraq war as another World War 2: that war holds an enormous amount of emotional sway with the voters. Unlike conficts since then, in the eyes of the voters, WW2 had a Good Side and a Bad Side and the Good Side won decisively. There isn’t any of the moral ambiguity that’s present in later conflicts, and that’s what Bush & Co. are trying to harness with regards to the Iraq war.

McAdams seems content to leave this as it stands, simply pointing out the surface deceptions of the current administration. That’s fine, they’re liars and theives and as such deserve to be exposed. However, it’s well worth thinking about the root causes behind these lies: why does Bush lie so consitently and transparently? Why compare the Iraq war to WW2 when it’s clear that there is little to no substatial basis for comparison? The answer is, as usual, that that’s how the incentives are arranged. The lies that surround the Iraq war are a natural consequence of a representative democracy.

It’s Funny ‘Cause It’s True

If Sarah Brady could articulate a caricature of the American gun owner, it would be Kim DuToit:

And don’t give me that jive about “sensitivity”—the only sensitivity I care about is that of my trigger finger, and let me tell you, it’s itching right now.

At some point, I might be in a position of a passenger denied service, and let me tell you this: if some guy refuses to provide me a paid service, just because he thinks I’ve broken some nonsensical and inconsequential taboo of his tribe, I’m going to kick his ass all over the goddamn block.

Attention Billy Beck: It’s Not The Democrats That Are The Problem

Billy Beck writes at his blog :

“The Cold War” is not “over”, socialism is not “dead”, and the Democrats will be an unprecedented disaster.

Beck implies that the Democrats will bring some sort of special evil to the table if they get elected. The problem with that idea is that this election, like all before it, will be an “unprecedented disaster” simply because whoever wins will have more power and a more-cowed populance than any of their predecessors, and they will in turn use those things to create more of the same. A majoritarian democratic government is controlled by positive feedback:

In every feedback loop, as the name suggests, information about the result of a transformation or an action is sent back to the input of the system in the form of input data. If these new data facilitate and accelerate the transformation in the same direction as the preceding results, they are positive feedback – their effects are cumulative. If the new data produce a result in the opposite direction to previous results, they are negative feedback – their effects stabilize the system. In the first case there is exponential growth or decline; in the second there is maintenance of the equilibrium.

Positive feedback leads to divergent behavior: indefinite expansion or explosion (a running away toward infinity) or total blocking of activities (a running away toward zero). Each plus involves another plus; there is a snowball effect. The examples are numerous: chain reaction, population explosion, industrial expansion, capital invested at compound interest, inflation, proliferation of cancer cells. However, when minus leads to another minus, events come to a standstill. Typical examples are bankruptcy and economic depression.

In either case a positive feedback loop left to itself can lead only to the destruction of the system, through explosion or through the blocking of all its functions. The wild behavior of positive loops – a veritable death wish – must be controlled by negative loops. This control is essential for a system to maintain itself in the course of time.

More government interference in individuals’ lives leads to more clamoring for interference which leads to more elections won by those who promise government interference which leads to more interference. Repeat enough times, and soon enough, everyone is either a jailer, or in jail.

And we are heading just there. Beck’s implicit claim that the Democrats will be worse is like arguing over which brand of gasoline will make the fire worse – you might be right, but it doesn’t matter in the context. The fire’s going to be plenty bad enough no matter which one gets poured on it.

The problem with pouring gasoline on a fire isn’t making sure that you choose the one with an anti-knock additive, and the problem with this election isn’t the Democrats. The problem with this election is democracy.

Randy Barnett’s Oddly Brief Response To Spooner

The previous post on Randy Barnett caused me to revisit my copy of Restoring The Lost Constitution. Just to recap, it’s widely claimed that Barnett’s book is a refutation of Lysander Spooner’s No Treason – The Constitution Of No Authority (*). Just for fun, I had a look at the Index of Names, looking specifically for all of the references to Spooner’s classic piece to see for myself just how neatly Barnett was able to demolish Spooner’s arguments. So how many times do you suppose that Barnett refers to Spooner’s No Treason in his 300-odd pages?

Get ready for it: once. In the introduction, he refers to having read No Treason years ago and finding it “unanswerable” at the time. Barnett then implies a few sentences later that this first impression has since changed. And that’s all he’s got to say about that. All of the other references to Lysander Spooner listed in the index (all seven others) are references either to Spooner’s Unconstitutionality Of Slavery or to Barnett’s writings on that same work. For perspective, Robert Bork is indexed as being mentioned in nine places.

Just in case that wasn’t clear: In Restoring The Lost Constitution, Randy Barnett refers to Robert Bork in more places than he refers to Lysander Spooner.

I personally find this brevity to be quite striking.

(*) Update [9-11-06]: It’s come to my attention that not everyone knows that Barnett’s book purports to be a refutation of Spooner. A couple of quotes ought to clarify matters. First, Barnett gives us an introduction to Spooner (first page of the book’s Preface):

In his best-known work, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority (1870), Spooner argued that the Constitution of the United States was illegitimate because it was not and never could have been consented to by the people on whom it was imposed.

Then Barnett makes this odd claim (pages xiii and xiv):

Whether or not Spooner was right in this assessment of the constitutionality of slavery, his argument opened for me an entirely new position: a defense of original meaning rather than original intent that could withstand the well-known critique of originalism. The final missing ingredient was an answer to Spooner’s later charge [i.e., as laid in No Treason — ed.] that the Constitution was without authority because it lacked actual consent. My answer to Spooner’s challenge is presented in Part 1 of this book.

Stephan Kinsella On Libertarian Activism


We principled libertarians have no problem recognizing the difference between what is right and true, with what is likely and what we can get away with. They are different questions. But strategists have trouble seeing past strategy and “what works”. If a principles-based libertarian says, “public education is unjustified and ought to be abolished,” a typical reply of a tactician-activist is “but that is not practical” or “but that is not going to sell with the average person”. In other words, the activist makes the mistake of confusing what will sell with what is true. But the committed activist too often relegates something that will not sell now, today, as useless, and in effect as untrue – or, more to the point, he adopts the view that what is true does not really matter; only results matter. Sure, both inquiries – what is the best strategy to achieve liberty? what is liberty? – have their own value and roles. But they are not the same.

The only thing I would add to the above analysis is that this activist mindset, the focus on what will sell to the great mass of men, is the result of focusing on a collective solution (specifically mass persuasion) to the problem of liberty. Libertarians can avoid the problems Kinsella points out by focusing on individual solutions to liberty rather than collective ones.

In fact, libertarians will do better in general to focus more on individualism and less on collectivism. Not only will individualist solutions not get you into the ethical trouble that collectivist solutions will, but sometimes the individualist solutions will actually produce a little liberty for you. And that’s a bar that collective solutions to the freedom problem haven’t yet been able to cross.

The Secret Airline/TSA/Homeless Shelter Conspiracy


EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Airport discards in the response to a terror plot have turned into balm for the homeless in Eugene.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County has started picking up some of the things people have jettisoned for security reasons as they board flights at the Eugene Airport.

Charley Harvey, assistant executive director of the charity, dug through trash bags Tuesday and took every bottle of shampoo and shaving cream he could find. The items will be distributed at the organization’s First Place Family Center.

After investigators said they uncovered a plot in Britain to blow up aircraft, travelers tossed the items into trash bins in compliance with new rules prohibiting most liquids, lotions and gels in carry-on luggage.

Liquids are banned from aircraft because they supposedly might be disguised explosives. Yet, rather than the bomb squad trucking the confiscated hair gel, toothpaste, and Preparation H off to an abandoned quarry and detonating it, Homeland Security is dumping the items en masse into trash cans and allowing the local homeless shelter to harvest what they want.

One explanation for this apparent contradiction is that this is a secret plot to get rid of poor people being perpetrated by the TSA, charity organizations, and the airlines:

“Go ahead and take that ‘toothpaste’, homeless guy. Heh, heh, heh!”

TSA screeners are so dedicated to this plot that they willingly risk their lives by handling potentially explosive liquids as roughly as if they were nothing more than harmless toiletries. Or maybe they’ve all been brainwashed by the KGB. Or aliens! It might be true, you know.

After all, what other explanation could there be? That all those things really are harmless, that the government’s just trying to put on a big show? That’s crazy talk.