Saturday Night Live On Rational Irrationality

Saturday Night Live did a cute skit this weekend on how undecided voters know nothing about politics. It’s actually an excellent demonstration of rational irrationality – most people are ignorant and irrational about politics because there is little incentive for them to be otherwise.

I think most viewers assumed the joke was at the expense of a few comically ignorant voters, but actually the joke is on everyone who thinks their vote matters. The election will certainly be decided by ignorant and irrational voters, so any effort you put in to actually understanding the issues is totally wasted, as far as the electoral result is concerned – you will get the same President that these ignorant, irrational voters choose regardless of how much effort you invest in understanding the issues.

Exit, Not Arguments

I find many valuable insights in James Buchanan’s essay The Soul of Classical Liberalism, but I was particularly struck by a point that Buchanan only touches upon tangentially:

Much has been made of the American spirit or soul as influenced by the availability of the territorial frontier during the first century of the United States’ historical experience. Why was the frontier important? The proper economic interpretation of frontier lies in its guarantee of an exit option, the presence of which dramatically limits the potential for interpersonal exploitation. There has been a general failure to recognize that the effectively operating market order acts in precisely the same way as the frontier; it offers each participant exit options in each relationship.

The rational evangelists of libertarianism think we need to argue better, but it’s really exit that makes liberty possible, and exit is not an argument. Libertarians need better exits, not better arguments. They need to see markets as the solution rather than the goal.

The Collected Works of Lysander Spooner

Astonishingly, Lysander Spooner has been very active during our hiatus. One of the most welcome developments is that the wonderful Online Library of Liberty has published The Collected Works of Lysander Spooner (1834-1886) in five volumes of facsimile pdf. On Amazon you can currently find sellers offering complete hardcover collections of Spooner’s work for $350-$425. I’m delighted with this free version.

The contents:

Volume I (1834-1850) [473 pp.]

1.The Deist’s Immortality, and an Essay on Man’s Accountability for his Belief (Boston, 1834).

2.”To the Members of the Legislature ofMassachusetts.” Worcester Republican. -Extra. August 26, 1835.

3.The Deist’s Reply to the Alleged Supernatural Evidences of Christianity (Boston, 1836).

4.Supreme Court of United States, January Term, 1839. Spooner vs. M’Connell, et al.

5.Constitutional Law, relative to Credit, Currency, and Banking (Worcester, Mass.: Jos. B. Ripley, 1843).

6.The Unconstitutionality of the Laws of Congress, Prohibiting Private Mails (New York: Tribune Printing Establishment, 1844).

7.Poverty: its Illegal Causes and Legal Cure. Part First. (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1846).

8.Who caused the Reduction of Postage? Ought he to be Paid? (Boston: Wright and Hasty’s Press, 1850).

9.Illegality of the Trial of John W. Webster. (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1850)

10.A Defence for Fugitive Slaves (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1850).

Volume II (1852-1855) [463 pp.]

11.An Essay on the Trial by Jury (Boston:John P. Jewett and Co., 1852).

12.The Law of Intellectual Property; or An Essay on the Right of Authors and Inventors to a Perpetual Property in their Ideas, Vol. 1 (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1855).

Volume III (1858-1862) [488 pp.]

13.To the Non-Slaveholders of the South (1858).

14.Address of the Free Constitutionalists to the People of the United States (Boston: Thayer & Eldridge, 1860).

15.The Unconstitutionality of Slavery (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1860).

16.The Unconstitutionality of Slavery: Part Second (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1860).

17.A New System of Paper Currency. (Boston: Stacy and Richardson, 1861).

18.Our Mechanical Industry, as Affected by our Present Currency System: An Argument for the Author’s “New System of Paper Currency” (Boston: Stacy & Richardson, 1862).

Volume IV (1863-1873) [306 pp.]

19.Articles of Association of the Spooner Copyright Company for Massachusetts (1863).

20.Considerations for Bankers, and Holders of United States Bonds (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1864).

21.A Letter to Charles Sumner (1864).

22.No Treason, No. 1 (Boston: Published by the Author, 1867).

23.No Treason. No II.The Constitution (Boston: Published by the Author, 1867).

24.Senate-No. 824. Thomas Drew vs. John M. Clark (1869).

25. No T reason. No VI. The Constitution of No Authority (Boston: Published by the Author, 1870).

26. A New Banking System: The Needful Capital for Rebuilding the Burnt District (Boston: A. Williams % Co., 1873).

Volume V (1875-1886) [294 pp.]

27.Vices are Not Crimes: A Vindication of Moral Liberty (1875).

28.Our Financiers: Their Ignorance, Usurpations, and Frauds. Reprinted from “The Radical Review” (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1877).

29.The Law of Prices: A Demonstration of the Necessity for an Indefinite Increase of Money. Reprinted from “The Radical Review” (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1877).

30.Gold and Silver as Standards of Value: The Flagrant Cheat in Regard to Them. Reprinted from “The Radical Review” (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1878).

31. Universal Wealth shown to be Easily Attainable (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1879).

32. No. 1. Revolution: The only Remedy for the Oppressed Classes of Ireland, England, and Other Parts of the British Empire. A Reply to “Dunraven” (Second Edition, 1880).

33. Natural Law; or the Science of Justice: A Treatise on Natural Law, Natural Justice, Natural Rights, Natural Liberty, and Natural Society; showing that all Legislation whatsoever is an Absurdity, a Usurpation, and a Crime. Part First. (Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1882).

34. A Letter to Thomas F. Bayard: Challenging his Right – and that of all the Other So-called Senators and Representatives in Congress – to Exercise any Legislative Power whatever over the People of the United States (Boston: Published by the Author, 1882).

35. A Letter to Scientist and Inventors, on the Science of Justice, and their Right of Perpetual Property in their Discoveries and Inventions (Boston: Cupples, Upham & Co., 1884).

36. A Letter to Grover Cleveland, on his False Inaugural Address, the Usurpations and Crimes of Lawmakers and Judges, and the Consequent Poverty, Ignorance, and Servitude of the People (Boston: Benj. R. Tucker, Publisher, 1886).

Billy Beck’s Articles Removed From No Treason

In resurrecting No Treason, which has been off the web since 2008, I’ve decided to remove Billy Becks articles from the site, since I no longer have any use for them. This deserves some explanation since Beck was once a major contributor to the site. In 2006 Beck claimed that I was no longer authorized to host his articles:

Kennedy: you are no longer authorized to keep any of my articles here. This has been the fact since the very last thing I ever posted here. You can look it up, although you will refuse to understand it. You have said that *I* said that you can could keep that stuff here as long as the site existed. I didn’t argue with you, and I am not interested to, now. You know what I said: if I actually made that agreement, then I would live with it. I don’t believe that I did, but I’m not interested in the fight, because it would mean dealing with your fucking bullshit exactly one second longer than I care to. But none of that is to the point: that stuff is mine, everybody knows it, and now everyone is clear about it.

At the time I was in no mood to indulge Beck in this matter, since I had paid for the rights to host the material. I’ve decided to explain how I acquired those rights. The following timeline has been reconstructed from memory and context, since I no longer have the original emails, and is probably not completely accurate. But the substance of the agreements is accurate.

Around the time I launched No Treason in June 2001 I sent John Sabotta $50 for the No Treason logo you see above and for design work that went with it. I also sent Beck $50 for three articles he would write for No Treason, articles along the lines of those he had written for Union Square Journal. I never paid another writer for articles, but at the time I considered Beck a draw for the audience I was going after and I thought It would help the site to get him involved. Beck never actually submitted the three articles agreed upon, but the contract was eventually satisfied by mutual agreement. By early 2002 Beck had still submitted nothing. I saw a piece on abortion he’d posted, probably on Usenet, called “You’d Bloody Well Do It Without Me”. I offered to publish this as an article on No Treason as the first of Beck’s three articles. He agreed.

In June of 2002 I started the first blog at No Treason. Beck blogged there but had still not submitted the final two articles by the end of 2002. In early 2003 I offered to accept, in lieu of the two contracted articles, the right to publish a bunch of articles Beck had originally written for Laissez Faire City Times and Union Square Journal, along with a few articles that were on Beck’s own web site.

Mindful of the fact that Beck had withdrawn his articles from Union Square Journal over a disagreement with editor Martin McPhillips, I made it clear to Beck that I was purchasing the right to host those articles on No Treason in perpetuity, along with any blog posts he contributed – I wasn’t paying for material that he could withdraw at whim, as he had done in the past. Beck agreed, retaining the right to publish any of his NT contributions anywhere else he liked.

Beck claims to not remember making such a deal (though note that he stopped short of saying it didn’t happen), and I’ll take him at his word on that. But I do remember, and I retain the rights I purchased. At this time I have no further desire to host the material and and have removed it. It’s possible that I’ve missed stray posts, so if you find a Beck contribution on No Treason please bring it to my attention.

Gene Callahan Joins The Smearbund

(Smearbund – I just can’t get enough of that word lately. That’s why I read Lew’s blog.)

A writer from Lew Rockwell’s stable finally (!) breaks ranks. Gene Callahan has had enough:

The final straw: “Last week, a statement was prepared by Ron Paul’s press secretary Jesse Benton, and approved by Ron Paul, acknowledging Lew Rockwell as having a role in the newsletters. The statement was squashed by campaign chairman Kent Snyder.”

Man, Paul’s behavior regarding these newsletters has been awful. His “I don’t know who wrote these” is about as slippery as a politician can get. Everyone who was around libertarianism in the early 90s knows Lew was in charge of these and knows Rothbard and his crew were into race-baiting back then. (By the way, notice that the longer Lew has been away from Rothbard’s influence, the more decent he’s become? I personally have found him very affable, and I can’t imagine him putting out material like this today. Just shows what hanging around Rothbard can do to you.)

Paul’s got a decent message, but he’s the wrong vehicle for delivering it.

In comments there, co-blogger Bob Murphy farvors a more traditional (*) approach, one that he likens to a blue wall of silence:

I think you are overreacting in the opposite way here, Gene. I.e. yes, I totally agree that (a) certain things in those newsletters were inexcusable, (b) RP is clearly lying about it now when he says he has no idea who wrote it, and (c) it is silly to just dismiss the inquiries as smears.

Having said all that, I do kinda wonder why Sanchez and his co-author decided to write that particular article, when the damage had already been done by the TNR one. If next week some anti-Irish magazine came out with a story that you did a bunch of drugs when you were younger (outlandish, I know), and this was getting you in trouble with your PhD committee, I wouldn’t comment to any reporter who called me up about it. And I sure as heck wouldn’t spend a few days doing research on it because “Callahan won’t come clean on this!”

Does that sound so crazy? If I were to do that, don’t you think some of your buddies would think, “Jeez, I thought Bob was Gene’s friend!” ?

I realize this sounds like cops and their blue wall of silence whenever one of them beats up a suspect, and maybe my view is just that wrong / tribal / petty. But I understand why longtime fans of LRC are lashing out at Reason on this, and don’t view Sanchez as Bob Woodward.

(* Traditional among Rockwell’s writers, that is.)

The Law Is The Law. Or Something.

I saw Ron Paul on CNN’s Situation Room today, he was filibustering to burn up any time during which he might have to face more questions about his newsletters. One thing he said was that he would pardon anyone convicted of a non-violent drug crime. That’s pretty sweet.

But in the Fox debate tonight when the subject of illegal immigration came up he said, “The law is the law and it ought to be enforced.”

Um.

If the law is the law for wetbacks why shouldn’t the law be the law for tweakers?

Three Million American Anarcho-Capitalists?

It’s time to evaluate a five year bet.

Back in 2001 Bob Murphy, posting as Bobbi-O on anti-state.com, was optimistic about persuading people of the virtues of anarcho-capitalism. I argued that not even 1% of the population would ever be persuaded to endorse anarcho-capitalism, and asked when he thought such a feat might be accomplished.

Murphy responded confidently:

If by “endorse” you mean people who say, “Yes, I agree that would the best system, I just don’t think it’s going to happen,” then I say it will happen in five years, easy.

We’re not trying to convince people to like our favorite musicians, we’re trying to convince them that systematic theft and murder are counterproductive. Call me naive, but I don’t think it will be that hard to convince 1% to admit this. I recall my own conversion process; I had to first hear the ideas (and think they were too radical), then get disillusioned for some inconsequential reason, and at that point remember all of Rothbard et al.’s arguments that I had earlier rejected.

If I can convince my mom to vote for Harry Browne, and my good Rush Limbaugh-devotee friend to favor drug legalization after an hour conversation, I think 1% isn’t too farfetched.

Again, I’m talking about people agreeing that it would be the best system if implemented, not that these people are going to lift a finger to make it so.

I immediately offered to bet $1000 that this would not happen. Bob accepted the bet in principle, and he was backed by Gene Callahan but we never came up with a metric for deciding the outcome so no money was wagered.

The five years ended last November. Based on a population of roughly 300,000,000 Americans, Murphy and Callahan needed to come up with about 3 million ancaps.

I submit that nothing remotely like Murphy’s prediction has happened. I’m confident that there are not even 30,000 Americans who satisfy the criteria, not even close – and that’s just 1% of 1% of the population.

Two questions occur to me:

How could smart cookies like Murphy and Callahan be so far off base?

My guess is that were caught up in excitement of the (then) recent explosive growth of ancap web sites and forums. Someone in the thread said anti-state.com had been growing at a rate of 50% per month. That may have been true but it was ending as he typed, ASC’s growth has been quite modest from that moment on. What had really happened was that the relatively few people sympathetic with anarcho-capitalism suddenly all found each other through the internet in a brief space of time. And then it was over. There was no second wave.

Has this result changed their opinions about the prospects of rational evangelism?

I’d be interested to hear from Murphy and Callahan on this.

Unfortunately there is a final irony here. Not only have 3,000,000 ancaps failed to materialize but one seems to have vanished, at least from the web. It appears that Murphy’s ancap writing on the web has largely been withdrawn recently, including well over 100 articles at lewrockwell.com, anti-state.com and strike-the-root.com.