The Elephant In The Living Room

Arnold Kling:

I believe that what we need going forward is a policy of disarming Muslims. I believe that we must keep devout Muslims away from weapons, and keep weapons away from devout Muslims. I can work with Muslims, send my children to school with Muslims, and be friends with Muslims. I do not have an issue with their religion, as long as they do not have weapons. However, the combination of weapons and Islam poses unacceptable danger to the rest of us.

Sean Lynch, in response:

Steps to solving the “Muslim question”:

1. Take away their weapons
2. Make them wear labels so we can distinguish them easily (to make sure they don’t get weapons again).
3. Move them all to ghettos
4. Round them all up and stick them in concentration camps.
5. …
6. Profit!

This doesn’t seem that large of a leap to me. If, as Kling opines, armed Muslims pose an “unacceptable danger”, then given the fact that “arms” are impossible to prohibit effectively, something fairly close to Hitler’s final solution is on the table.

The interesting thing, however, isn’t how evil Kling’s argument is but how loudly the implications of it were ignored by the libertarian readers of and contributors to Catallarchy. This is a theme I’ve seen before, most notably in debate with immigration restrictionists. In each case, the piece of public policy as presented requires certain obvious crimes against individuals. In each case, that fact is roundly, almost universally, ignored or evaded.

Does anyone have any guesses as to why?

If It’s On The Internet, It Must Be True!

Remember Alexa rankings? Wow, them things were the cat’s pajamas. If you don’t remember that far back, Alexa rankings were generated by a piece of software that users downloaded, and thus supposedly measured the real-life popularity of websites. Certain movementarians encouraged everyone in sight to download the thing and so thus increase their Alexa ranking, presumably increasing the number of people converted to the libertarian cause. Sign up now! No money down! Libertopia awaits!

Problem was that pretty much the only people who bothered to download it were libertarian movement types. Hilarity ensued as the Alexa rankings became the victims of movementarian hyperinflation and the movementarians themselves started overdosing on their own Kool-Aid: More popular than the Washington Times? I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true!

The Alexa rankings disappeared into embarassed obscurity, but our never-flagging movementeers have a brand new promotional scheme: Digg. Digg promotes articles and links based on other Digg users’ recommendations – so totally not like Alexa rankings!

Can you guess who’s recommending that their readers all sign up and recommend articles? And can you guess what that sort of gamesmanship will do to Digg’s wonderful, “democratic” recommendation system? That’s right. More readers than the New York Times! Doubling in users every two months! I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true!

Scorn On The Fourth Of July

APPENDIX.

Inasmuch as the Constitution was never signed, nor agreed to, by anybody, as a contract, and therefore never bound anybody, and is now binding upon nobody; and is, moreover, such an one as no people can ever hereafter be expected to consent to, except as they may be forced to do so at the point of the bayonet, it is perhaps of no importance what its true legal meaning, as a contract, is. Nevertheless, the writer thinks it proper to say that, in his opinion, the Constitution is no such instrument as it has generally been assumed to be but that by false interpretations, and naked usurpations, the government has been made in practice a very widely, and almost wholly, different thing from what the Constitution itself purports to authorize. He has heretofore written much, and could write much more, to prove that such is the truth. But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain—that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

— Lysander Spooner, No Treason No. VI: The Constitution of No Authority, 1870.

Legitimacy Grows Out Of The Barrel Of A Gun

At The Liberty Papers, Brad Warbiany tries to make the case for the legitimacy of this government:

Whether or not a government is legitimate rests on one very simple basis: whether the overwhelming majority of people living under that government recognizes its legitimacy.

Brad goes on to say that this government is legitimate since most people seem to be in favor of it. But is that really true? If people had a free choice, would they support this government?

Consider this: let’s suppose that out of the goodness of their hearts and the confidence they have in their own popularity, this government decided to make taxes voluntary. No estimated payments, no withholding, no penalties. On April 15th, send them ten grand or ten dollars or send them a big fat middle finger – your choice, no questions asked.

How much money do you think this government would get via voluntary contributions?

The answer of course is that they’d get next to nothing, because it’d be a sucker deal for anyone to volunteer to fund this government. Given the choice, Brad’s “overwhelming majority” would opt out of taxation overnight, thus opting out of this government that he’s so sure they support.

The perception of legitimacy that Warbiany sees is really a combination of massive intimidation by the government and a lifetime of exposure to that same intimidation on the part of the populance. Warbiany’s legitimacy comes out of the barrel of a gun.

George W. Bush Saves Property Rights

For real:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and to strengthen the rights of the American people against the taking of their private property, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect the rights of Americans to their private property, including by limiting the taking of private property by the Federal Government to situations in which the taking is for public use, with just compensation, and for the purpose of benefiting the general public and not merely for the purpose of advancing the economic interest of private parties to be given ownership or use of the property taken.

So now the government is only allowed to steal your property when they think they should, and if they do steal it then they have to pay you whatever they think they ought to. In fact they’ve gone so far as to write themselves a note saying that they have to do those things. And that note will remain in effect until someone writes another note.

Don’t you feel better, now?

It Begins

Wonderful, “liberal” Washington State has begun to bring the whip down on illegal recreation. Or anything that links to illegal recreation. Or has advice on illegal recreation. Or something. It’s hard to tell:

The first casualty in the state’s war on Internet gambling is a local Web site where nobody was actually doing any gambling.

What a Bellingham man did on his site was write about online gambling. He reviewed Internet casinos. He had links to them, and ran ads by them. He fancied himself a guide to an uncharted frontier, even compiling a list of “rogue casinos” that had bilked gamblers.

All that, says the state — the ads, the linking, even the discussing — violates a new state law barring online wagering or using the Internet to transmit “gambling information.”

Is it against the law to question the rather un-juicy odds printed on the back of the Evergreen State’s nice, legal scratch tickets? (“Grand prize [usually ten grand or less] may have already been won. Overall odds of winning are 1 in [several times 1]”) Is that implicitly transmitting “gambling information”? Maybe so, that’s why I’m not questioning those odds here. In fact I encourage our readership to remember that lottery proceeds go to “education“. Be a smart player, as the lottery commercials say.

On the other hand, is it against the law for the Washington State Lottery to provide “gambling information” (and let’s be candid: they are doing just that) via the internet? No, probably not, because the intent of this law isn’t to impose any sort of hurdles on revenue collection, the intent of this law is to prevent competition for gambling dollars. Even if the state’s lawmakers weren’t smart enough to write a nice exclusion for themselves, every cop-bot out there knows that the state’s lottery website isn’t to be touched.

The petty thievery and rank protectionism of the hick leglislature in question here is so common as to be almost not worth noticing. What will really be worth paying attention to is when it’s “discovered” that preventing people from gambling online is impossible without immense amounts of intrusion. Then it’ll be your privacy versus Washington State’s need for money. Yeah.

What then? Who d’you think’s gonna fucking walk away from that one, Wu? Huh?” — Al Swearengen, Deadwood.

Attention Kim DuToit: The Free Market Is Not Your Enemy

Kim DuToit expresses a mild dissent against my amusement regarding his faith in government:

I suppose it matters not to these frigging anarchists that government is sometimes capable of doing some things reasonably well (not always to our satisfaction, but when your binding purchasing criterion is always to go with the low bidder… well).

Government sometimes does some things reasonably well, y’know, for an organization that always goes with the lowest bidder. Now that’s a ringing endorsement.

But DuToit’s just getting warmed up, he’s not going to let the immigration issue get forgotten:

As for preventing the influx of illegal aliens across our southern border: well, I guess we could leave it up to Blackwater or someone to set up patrols—as long as their salaries and expenses could be paid by… whom, exactly? The border ranchers? Displaced native-born agricultural workers and housemaids?

DuToit carries this theme into comments at NT:

I await with interest to see how well the private sector manages to prevent Mexicans from flooding into the country.

The answer is of course that not only won’t the “private sector” prevent Mexicans from darkening DuToit’s neighborhood but that it’s the private sector (or “free market”) that’s drawing them here in the first place.

And this is a good thing.

A free exchange of values is what drives all of human progress. This is what first allowed people to spare enough time from tending to the business of staying alive to advance their own well-being. Everyone involved becomes richer as a result of a free exchange of values. For example, when Farmer Jim pays Jose Illegal to pick veggies, they both gain: Jose gains money from the work and Jim gains money by paying Jose less than it would have cost Jim to pick the crop. Jim can sell his crop to Safeway, and again they both benefit. And when Kim DuToit shows up and buys those vegetables in Safeway, he benefits too. Free exchange creates wealth: the more, the merrier.

But coercion works differently. DuToit’s IRS, for example. You know, the instrument with which he would pay for his border-closing scheme. They aren’t exchanging values, instead they’re presenting us all with the highwayman’s challenge: “Your money or your life”.

Every thin dime that this government confiscates is money that will be spent in a manner that doesn’t benefit all parties involved. In principle, as DuToit affirms above, it might be spent well (sort of) on things that (maybe) might be worth doing, kind of. In practice, most of it gets simply wasted. It’s potential wealth that gets lost, just as surely as if you take out a loan and burn the money rather than investing it.

And this is why I answer DuToit’s rhetorical question like so:

Mr. DuToit, closing the border oughtn’t be paid for at all. The free market isn’t my enemy, and it shouldn’t be your enemy either.

The Perils Of Partisan Politics, Part II

Among other dangers: trying so hard to score points during a publicity stunt that you fail to see how much of a fool you’re making of yourself.

Tim Eyman, in a stunt that was not wholly unexpected, arrived at the state elections division building Monday dressed as Darth Vader and wielding a plastic light saber. Missing were the petitions full of signatures in support of an effort to overturn the state’s new gay civil-rights law.

Memo to Tim Eyman: Darth Vader was the bad guy.

The Great Wetback Prevention And Elk Encouragement Debate

I find it amusing that Kim DuToit can notice the fact that the US government can’t wrangle elk properly but naively accepts that the government is competent to secure 5000 miles of borders.

The reason for this is easy enough to explain: DuToit isn’t a philosopher and so has no inherent stake in making a correct analysis of the situation. His credulous faith in the nonexistent abilities of the Federal government to keep Mexicans out of the US doesn’t do him much good, but more importantly it doesn’t do him much harm either: however much or how little thought he puts into this, he’ll get the same amount of Mexicans. Likewise with elk.

A majoritarian democratic government might as well be a cargo cult for all the good that rational thought does you: think this, blog that, vote the other, and out pops a result. If you like the result, do the same thing next year. If you don’t, change a few things and try again. A cargo cult doesn’t operate any better if you think real hard about it.

This is a capsule example of why rational evangelism doesn’t work. There’s no penalty for holding contradictory political ideas, there’s no apparent benefit from adopting a more consistent worldview. The goofiest bumpkin notion is equal to the finest philisophical idea, when they’re committed to ballots.

All of that seems to speak against logical argumentation in general: why bother if it isn’t going to get anyone anywhere? Why think about things if the most likely outcome of the matter at hand is that everyone maintains their state of rational ignorance?

The best possible outcome of the great Wetback Prevention and Elk Encouragement debate isn’t that it’s going to end up producing you any different amounts of elk or wetbacks, the best possible outcome is that you gain something by participating.

In Support Of A Consequentialist Analysis Of Immigration Policy

Contra John T. Kennedy’s rebuke of Patri Friedman, I present a concrete example that should set the discussion to rest.

The situation is simple: we have an illegal immigrant from an indisputably “hostile to freedom” culture who is residing in the United States. American immigration deports him.

What’s wrong with that, Kennedy? Isn’t it at least worth considering the future liberty you might gain?

A picture of this illegal immigrant is reproduced below:


1 less Communist = better consequences
Above: Illegal immigrant from hostile-to-freedom culture being deported by American law enforcement.

The Current War In A Nutshell

Fred Reed:

An intelligent enemy knows that America cannot be beaten at industrial war. So he thinks, “What then are America’s weaknesses?” The first and crucial one is that the American government enters into distant wars in which the public has no stake. Do you want your son to die for—get this—democracy in Iraq? You diapered him, got him through school-yard fist fights, his first prom, graduation from boot camp, and he comes home in a box—for democracy in Iraq?

Open Question For Republicans

Publicola:

Bush & the current crop of republicans are in love with the idea of power. They also seem to think that bigger government is okay when they’re in control. The “who else are they gonna vote for?” attitude seems to be alleviating any fears of repercussions for their actions.

That’s a fair observation, but:

Who else are you gonna vote for?

Let’s see:
Democrats? No, too evil.
Libertarians? No, too crazy and too loser-y.
Other third parties? No, see “Libertarians” above.

Well.

Looks like you-all will be reluctantly going to the polls in November ’08 and making your marks beside whoever (and note that it doesn’t really matter who) has a big “R” beside his or her name, and the reason is that whoever it is won’t be quite as bad as whoever has the “D” by their name.

Not quite.

But don’t go thinking that they’ll be “good”, any more than George Bush has been “good”. All that they’ll be is not a Democrat. And for the vast majority of you, that’ll be good enough.

For the few of you who think otherwise though, you might want to consider a different course of action.